5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

Gratitude and Results Keep Donors Coming Back

Hand written thank you in crayon.
Dawn D. Hanna/Moment/Getty Images

Gratitude is powerful.

We've always known this intuitively, but now we have proof from experiments in behavioral psychology as well.

Business school professors Adam Grant and Francesca Gino performed simple experiments involving gratitude. In one of them, they found that when a student who sent a resume to a fictitious employer got an acknowledgement that included a simple "thank you," the student's self-esteem went up.

And he or she was more likely to help another student who later asked for help with a cover letter.

In Adam Grant's book, Give and Take: How Helping Others Drive Our Success, he recounts how exhausted health care workers, who worked in isolation from the people they helped, became energized again after meeting one of those people. Grant says, "When people know how their work makes a difference, they feel energized to contribute more."

The same is true of donors. When they are thanked and shown how their gift made a difference, they are more likely to give again.

Thank you letters and notes are at their best when they make donors feel appreciated and let them know how they helped.

How can you make your thank you letters mean more than just words on the page?

Tell stories. Particularly the story of one person, child, or animal whose life was made better through the donor's help.

Here are five examples of thank you letters any donor would love to receive. 

Dear Deborah,

Thanks to you, Michael and his sister, Janet, celebrated Michael's 9th birthday with cake and balloons in a safe and loving place. They are no longer scared and love having their very own rooms.

Thank you for your recent generous gift of $100 to Children's Residential Services of Greater Boston.

Your willingness to help displaced children in our community weather the crises in their lives makes all the difference for children just like Michael and Janet.

Thanks to you, we have provided 250 children just this year with a place to live, learn, and feel safe.

Your donation will help purchase new computers for our kids over the next six months. The children are eager for the new computers so that they can do their homework and communicate with friends and family.

The computers are part of our Excellence in Service Campaign that will make our home even nicer for Michael, Janet, and their new friends. You and other people like you have brought us closer to our goal of $50,000 for that campaign.

We would love to give you a tour so you can meet some of the 15 staff and 50 children who are now with us. We love to show off our comfy home, and the children enjoy meeting visitors. One or two might even show you what they can do with their new computers.

Janet Teebs, our development director, is always available to set up a visit for you, or to answer any questions you may have.

Don't hesitate to call her at 520-446-0912, or email her at janetteebs@CRS.com.

We would love to keep you in the loop with our emails and newsletter. You can sign up for those at our site, www.crc.org.

Again, thank you for all you do for our kids. You are a part of their lives too.


Malcolm Wexter
Executive Director

P.S. We depend on volunteers to help us. If you would like to share your time, just let Janet know, and she will ask our volunteer coordinator to get in touch. We have frequent introductions to our work for volunteers. We would be delighted to see you there.

If one story is good, are more stories better? Well, not better but just as good, as this example of a thank you letter shows.

Dear James,

First, let me just say, thank you!

Your recent donation of $150 means that you understand just how important riding a horse can be to a child with cognitive or physical challenges.

But let me tell you what our services at Therapeutic Riding of Atlanta mean to some of the children who come to our classes.

  • One little boy with severe cerebral palsy leaned how to sit up tall on his horse. His mother was so proud and said, "I never thought he'd be able to do so well. If he can do this, what else can he do?"
  • A young girl who had never said a word suddenly said "go" to her horse.
  • Because she built her confidence by riding, one little girl is no longer afraid to be on the playground swings.
  • A child who had trouble walking by himself started doing so after only a few times on a horse.
  • A young girl was able to speak louder in her classroom because she had become stronger and her respiration better from riding her horse.

Although these victories may seem small to the average person, you know that they are not. That's why you gave, and why we and the kids we serve are full of gratitude for your generosity.

Donors like you help make our therapeutic riding possible, ensure that our horses are well fed, housed, and trained, and guarantee that we can offer scholarships to children and their families who could not, otherwise, afford these life-enhancing activities.

We want you to be an active member of our community too. Please visit our website at www.tra.org to sign up for our emails and newsletters. And do watch for invitations to our events such as Horsin' Around, Hearts & Horses, and the special tours we offer all year round.

We are volunteer intense and would love for you to experience the joy of helping a child ride a horse.

Just indicate your interest at our website or call volunteer coordinator, Sandy Converse, at xxx-xxxx. Volunteers get to wear some great t-shirts too!

Again, thank you! We love your support.

Best always,

Lilly Anderson

Executive Director

P.S. As a special thanks, we will be adding you to our special circle of friends and listing your name in our annual report and in our newsletter. Please stop by our ranch soon so we can say thanks in person.

Mailing thank you letters to donors creates a lasting bond that will bring in funds year after year. Reconnect the donor with your mission, mention your specific programs, and restate the need. Let the donor know just what his or her donation did, the results it made possible.

Dear Frank and Louise,

This week, thanks to your help, we moved Tom and Francis, a senior couple in their 80s, into a bright, well-furnished apartment in a community devoted to the health and happiness of our older citizens.

No longer isolated in a hard-to-reach walk up in a high-rise building, Tom and Francis now have easy access to the services they need. Plus, they will receive two meals a day and participate in healthy and fun activities ranging from exercise classes to community field trips.

Thank you for your thoughtful donation of $250 to the Wildthorne County Agency on Aging. Your donation will make sure that older people in our county, such as Tom and Francis, thrive.

As you know, more than 30 percent of our seniors live on small, fixed incomes. The Agency on Aging provides meals, rent subsidies, counseling, recreation, and health care for many of them.

Because of you we can keep helping older people in distress. Donations from caring people like you help us make up for cuts in our state and local government funding.

Truthfully, we could not do this without you. We, and those we serve, deeply appreciate your generosity.


Merry Baker

Development Director

P.S. Please call me at any time at xxxxx if you have questions, would like an update on what we're doing, or wish to volunteer at one of our sites. We would love to meet you in person so we can say thanks face-to-face.

My most delightful thank you experience happened when I got a year-end thank you from Best Friends Animal Society for my monthly donations.

The letter was great in and of itself, but then I popped the enclosed DVD into my computer and spent several minutes delighted by the animals, their antics, and their stories of survival thanks to Best Friends. I was smiling through my tears. I can't show you the DVD, but here is the letter.

Dear Joanne,

Thanks to you, 2011 may have been the most exciting year on record for homeless animals!

It certainly was for Rhubarb, a very special dog whose medical needs were so great he was a long shot for adoption. But lo and behold, he made the trip to his forever home in California! Then after months of behavioral rehabilitation Carmello the cat found a home too! And for former "Vicktory" dog Georgia, it was an amazing year as well. She passed a behavior test to make it possible for her to be adopted!

Your support also changed the lives of animals across the country...

  • 400 community cats of Tangier Island can now live their natural lives, without multiplying, thanks to a massive spay/neuter program
  • Pit bull terriers in five cities found loving homes through Best Friends' Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls program
  • Around 1,500 dogs moved across the country to find homes through Pup My Ride

Your gifts for 2011 totaled $______.

For your convenience, we've listed your individual gifts above.

These successes are yours, and they are just the tip of the iceberg. The enclosed DVD will introduce some more of the most memorable highlights from 2011.

Thank you for working with Best Friends to bring about the time when there are No More Homeless Pets.

Here's to making 2012 magical for even more animals!

Best wishes,

Gregory Castle
Best Friends Animal Society

P.S. Thank you so much for being a true friend of the animals! Every story on the enclosed DVD was made possible because of you. Please use the enclosed envelope for any questions, comments or suggestions, or to get a head start on your gifts for 2012.

Are you sending a thank you letter to donors who gave during your Giving Day? You should. That automatic email receipt just won't be enough.  Don't let Giving Day donors get away after one gift  This letter from the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) reminds the donor of when and how she gave and includes results and a story about a particular person who was helped.

Dear Joanne,

We did it!

Thanks to your generous support, ICRW raised over $____ during the Do More 24 giving day challenge. Your gift provides critical support for research and advocacy that address the root causes of inequality to ensure women and girls can reach their full potential.

Women and girls are community leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and so much more. For the last forty years, research has shown that investing in women and girls has ripple effects through a community.

Take Akina*, a young woman in Kenya who works for BURN, a clean cookstoves factory and social enterprise business supported by Acumen, a non-profit that invests in companies and ideas that aim to tackle poverty. Before BURN, Akina had never worked in a factory, but thanks to their investment in women, she has moved up to become a supervisor. Her wages pay for her younger sister's education and the transportation costs for her brother to commute to his job.

Acumen is using ICRW's research to better understand how integrating women throughout their social enterprise business models can not only make businesses more successful, but also improve the lives of low-income customers, including women.

On behalf of all of us at ICRW, thank you again for participating in Do More 24 and for your generous gift of $__ to support women and girls around the globe!


Gretchen Hutula

Senior Director, Business Development

P.S. Be sure to visit blog.icrrw.org to read more stories like Akina's.

*Name has been changed to protect her privacy.

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