Five Maples’ Fundraising Blog

Wish your first-time donor renewal rates were higher? Part 1: Write a better thank you letter

Our research consistently finds that donors consider most thank you letters they get to be boring, cold and largely focused on telling donors how great the not-for-profit is that they just supported. We also find that donors consider thank you letters to be the single most important communication they ever receive. —Penelope Burk  

How does your organization let donors know they and their gifts are appreciated? How do you show them the difference their generosity is making? Are you warmly and genuinely thanking donors before asking them to give again?

In this series of posts, I’m going to share a few tried-and-true methods for offering a thank you—better still, a series of thank-yous—to those who support your work. First, the always-appreciated thank you letter.

Your thank you letters will be more effective with these elements:

    • Thank the donor sincerely and profusely


    • Reaffirm the organization’s mission


  • Let the donor know about the impact made possible by their donations.
  • If possible, include a testimonial
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  • Have the President, Executive Director, head of fundraising, or other appropriate leader within the organization sign the thank you letter
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A personal touch makes an emotional connection. These extra steps can make a big difference:

  • Sign the letter by hand

  • Include a handwritten post-script
  • Address the envelope by hand
  • Hand write the signer’s name above the return address on the envelope

Put a thank you letter in the mail ASAP!

Don’t allow time to lag. Your first-time donor needs acknowledgment—fast!

How fast? Many organizations mail thank you letters within 24 hours of receipt of gifts. Within 48 hours is reasonable. Don’t waste a moment letting your first-time donors know their gift was received and will be put to the use for which it was given. And be sure to acknowledge—the gift AND the giver—are very much appreciated.

Your road to an improved retention of first-time donors starts here. Next in this series of posts I’ll cover other methods of thanks and appreciation, and when to ask for the second gift.

An appreciated and informed donor … your best chance they’ll be a retained donor!

This post was adapted from the Five Maples resource Our How to Guide for Keeping First Time Donors.

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