I just returned from a training where I got to hear Mary Cahalane teach on writing good thank you letters.

Studies estimate that 53% of donors who stop giving to a nonprofit stop due to the nonprofit’s lack of communication.


  • When donors don’t hear from us, they think we no longer need their gifts. So they stop giving.
  • Some donors get annoyed to not be thanked. So they stop giving.
  • Still others doubt the gift really mattered. So they stop giving.

All because they didn’t get a meaningful thank you from us. The good news? We can do something about our communication!

3 Things to Stop Doing in Your Nonprofit’s Thank You’s

Mary said taught us that our thank you’s should “keep the high going” – that wonderful feeling the donors gets when giving.

Here are three things that are buzzkillers. Stop them and you’ll immediately improve your thank you’s and help your donors keep feeling great about their gift.

  1. Making thank you’s about the transaction: If your thank you starts with “Thank you for your gift of $__ to the ______ fund,” you’ve already missed the point. The point is not the donation. The point of an effective thank you is the donor. So make sure the donor is emphasized over the donation. Good thank you tip: put the business office stuff down at the bottom.
  2. Making thank you’s about the nonprofit: Mary showed us one thank you that only referred to her twice. Both “you’s” were in the top of the letter. The rest of the letter was about the nonprofit! She said, “I was shunted to the side!” Good thank you tip: talk about the donor more than about your nonprofit.
  3. Bland, formal business language: Mary told us that in nonprofit thank you’s to donors “we cannot be too emotional.” That was not to say that we shouldn’t be emotional. We should absolutely be emotional! In fact, no matter how emotional we get, it’s virtually impossible to be too emotional. Good thank you tip: use emotion in letting the donor know how special she is, even if you feel you’re going over board.

Fundraising is Mission

Most people in nonprofits want to serve. They want to make a difference in the world.

Most people in nonprofits want to give.

And fundraising feels 100% opposite. Fundraising feels like taking from people. As a result, it’s really easy to put off fundraising even as the bills pile up.

Using these three thank you writing tips will not only help you keep donors giving to you. They will help you see fundraising as being in line with your service. You’ll see fundraising doesn’t have to be at odds with the rest of your work.

In fact, with this style for thank you’s, you might find that you look forward to fundraising!

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