Donor Thank You Letters: Best Practices and Nonprofit Examples for Giving Season

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For anyone raised with an Emily Post-reading and etiquette-loving parent, you know that it is obligatory to send thank you letters whenever you receive a gift. If you’ve really been indoctrinated, then sending thank you notes in your personal life is probably an impulse already.

A donation to your nonprofit organization is no different than receiving a candle for the holidays or a gift card on your birthday: Sending a thank you email is the time-honored, polite, and gracious way to respond. Whole Whale recommends thanking donors four or more times.

Unlike hand-written notes to your Grandma, donor thank you emails can — and should — be automated to save your team time during the busy giving season. Even after sending tailored fundraising emails, it is imperative to thank donors with just as much care and warmth. How does one do that without the email turning robotic and impersonal? Below are 7 best practices for donor thank you letters that would make Emily proud.

1. “Send from” a top person

Use the name of a top, preferably well-known, person at your organization as the sender’s name. Include the organization name as well for double recognition. For example, “George Weiner from Whole Whale.”
People respond to seeing human names in their inboxes, especially if that name is notable. They will also be primed to look at messages from your organization since they just took the big step of donating to your cause. Don’t forget to include an actual signature from this person at the end of the email for a personal touch.

2. Say “thank you” in the subject line

With these two simple words you’re already off to a good start! And it clearly states that, when recipients click on the subject line, they will open up a thank you email. As a bonus, try to insert the person’s name with a variable like {{first name}} through your CRM in the subject line as well. 

3. Use personalized merge tags

Donation forms require donors to include their names, so you will have this information. Use merge tags or variable tags (depending on your email marketing service) to insert a donor’s first name into the email. For example starting with “Dear Turtle” or “Thank you, Turtle.” This personalization can also include the exact donation purpose with more context on how it will help the cause. 

4. Make the donor feel like part of the team

Put the fundraising onus on the donor. Use “you” and “your” throughout the email. Remind them that they helped raise the money and they are a part of the community. Part of what donors are getting from the donation is the positive feelings of generosity associated with giving as a group to a cause bigger than themselves. 

5. Illustrate the impact

Show how valuable their donation was by explaining the impact you will be able to drive. How will this donation contribute to solving X problem? What people, animals, or plant life will that money be supporting? Include visuals (a video or an image) of the what will be supported to make the impact feel tangible. Also, include statistics:When applicable, use numbers to show how your organization reached its goal, and how many people, animals, or plant life you will be able to support with that money. Get specific about where that money will go.

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6. Thank them, again

It never hurts to thank them twice. Your first “thank you” was for their previous action of donating. Aim this “thank you” towards the future: Thank your donors for being part of your community and say that you look forward to your work together.

7. A Message from the stakeholders

Consider asking select stakeholders to put in their own words how the support of donors impacts them. This can be in handwritten letters that are scanned, quotes, or with video/audio testimonial that is recorded and linked to in the donation thank you note.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for more

Make a rule that no message should ever have a dead end! Include a P.S. at the end for the super-committed donors and ask them to take another step like sharing your campaign on social media or forwarding a campaign email to 5 of their friends. These constituents have just expressed interest in your organization by donating. They are more likely than other constituents to take another action on your behalf, especially if it is something light like a share.

“What are email users doing on my site?” asked every nonprofit ever. With Lighthouse by Whole Whale, we’ve created a virtual handshake between your email marketing provider and your Google Analytics to better understand the online activities of high-value email subscribers. Get more information and sign up for a demo at

Donation thank you letter examples

Giving season is a busy time for your team, but you can’t sacrifice personalized thanks you’s. Set up an automation to send a quick thank you (like a transaction email) after someone donates, and be sure to include their name and the social share ask. Once the campaign is over, send out a more personalized message using all 7 of the tips above. You can never thank your donors too much, and it will serve as a reminder after the initial excitement has died down.
For those 7 best practices, here are 7 examples of awesome donor thank you emails from nonprofits.

Donor’s Choose

Possibly the best thank you strategy in the industry, Donor’s Choose gives a clear guide for how teachers can have the students send thank you notes to the donors that support them. Here is the actual guide they share with teachers, and an amazing post with some of their favorite thank you notes.


aclu donor thank you



Center for Reproductive Rights

center for reproductive rights thank you


neda donor thank you

Note: Don’t forget the disclosure that the gift is tax-deductible!


earth justice donor thank you email

charity: water

charitywater donor thank you

Planned Parenthood

planned parenthood donor thank you

One Love Foundation

one love donor thank you email

For more fundraising email marketing tips, check out our recorded webinar: 7 Email Marketing Optimization Hacks for Year-End Campaigns with Salsa Labs.


Fundraising Thank You Templates

Tailoring your thank you messages has never been easier