Improve Your Donation Thank-You Letters, Cards, and Notes: Make Your Donor The Hero

Alan Sharpe

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One temptation in writing fundraising thank-you letters is to make your organization the star of the letter. You feel pressure to tell your donors how terrific you are, how cost-effective you are or how broke you are. You are tempted to brag about your achievements, your success, your volunteers, your new board member and more.

You need to resist this temptation. The secret to crafting effective donation thank-you letters is “making the donor the star of every transaction, ” as Conrad Squires puts it in his book, Teach Yourself to Write Irresistible Fund-raising Letters.

The quickest and cheapest way to build donor loyalty and reduce donor attrition is to tell your donors how much they are accomplishing in the world through your organization. By making your donor the hero of every thank-you letter (and every appeal letter for that matter), you reinforce in their mind that they made the right decision in supporting your mission. And that they are right in continuing their support.

How to make the donor the hero
1. Use the word “you” more than you use the word “we. ” Make the letter all about the donor.
2. Show a direct link between the donor’s donation and your mission. For example: “Thanks to your generous gift of $100, we fed 52 homeless men last night while the temperature hovered around -18° outside. Those men are thankful to you. And so am I. ”
3. Go beyond the donation to the donor, and describe how grateful you are for the donor as a person, as a supporter, as a friend of your organization.
4. Make your donors feel special by describing how they are one in a thousand, or one in ten thousand, by supporting your cause while others do not.

A sample thank-you letter
Below is a thank-you letter that Doctors Without Borders mailed to donors during the year that the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dear Alan Sharpe:

Two wonderful things happened this month.

We received your donation to our meningitis campaign. And we received the Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian assistance.

We received this award because of supporters like you. It’s ours together.

The Nobel Peace Prize is shared by the millions of people who support the work and principles of Doctors Without Borders. It’s shared by the people who make the right to humanitarian assistance a reality. People like you.

So thank you for your donation. With your support, we can now respond quickly and effectively to meningitis epidemics. Even the best doctors cannot prevent meningitis without vaccinations. So thank you for your timely gift.

Doctors Without Borders operates only with the continued support of partners like you. That’s why I’d like you to consider joining our monthly giving program, “Partners Without Borders. ”

As a member of Partners Without Borders, you help our volunteer physicians provide vital medical help anywhere, anytime. You also help us keep our administrative costs to a minimum. Every dollar we save is a dollar that we can use to fund our medical projects. Giving every month is more convenient for you. You make small donations on a regular basis instead of a larger donation all at once.

Our being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is international confirmation of the fundamental right of ordinary people to humanitarian assistance and protection. Please join Partners Without Borders today. Simply complete the form below. And thank you again for your support.



David Morley
Executive Director

About the author

Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor and mentor who helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using creative fundraising letters. Learn more about his services, view free sample fundraising letters , and sign up for free weekly tips like this at


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