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How to Thank a Donor by Email - 5 Best Practices


How Charity:Water Got Me to Open and Read an Email Thank-You
Charity:water excels in saying thank you to donors via effective emails, such as this one.
Charity: water. Click image to enlarge.

How do you keep donors and turn one-time donors into loyal supporters?

With effective donor thank-yous.

Today, more and more donations are made online, and it is entirely appropriate to send email thank yous. But, that email thank-you needs to stand out even more than a mailed letter simply because it lands in a deluge of email for most of us.

Here are five ways to get your email thank-you opened and to wow your donor.

Use a subject line in your email that jumps off the screen.

In this email thank-you (shown above) from Charity: water, the subject line read: "We hit our September Campaign goal!" Since I remembered contributing to that campaign, I was thrilled to learn that I actually had made a difference. The goal was met.

Make the donor the star.

Charity: water does that in the big headline at the top of its email: YOU DID IT! Plus, the word "you" or "your" is used five more times in this short thank you note.

Tell the donor the results and be specific.

Charity: water’s thank-you says that 1) the goal was met, 2) what the goal was - $1.7 million, and 3) that 26,000 people in Rwanda got clean water.

The specificity even extends to sharing the number of people who fund raised (1,788) and the number of people who donated (13,782) as a result. This creates a feeling of belonging to a very special group of people and emphasizes the multiplication factor of every person's effort.

Show a heart-warming photo.

Charity: water is renowned for its attention to imagery, and this thanks is no different. It shows one child enjoying water.

There is really no excuse for not including an image in an emailed thank-you. They are easy to add.

Make sure the image is of a person (or animal if that is your focus), is tightly framed, and is large. You could also include a video, as long as it is focused on someone who benefits from the donor's generosity and is simple.

Imagery of one person is more powerful than a group of people, and a person or group is more powerful than charts, graphs, or infographics.


Include a link to more information.

Focus on keeping the thank-you as simple and heartfelt as possible, but do provide a way for the donor to get back to your homepage or some other landing page that will pull him or her into more action. This thank-you from charity: water got me pretty excited and ready to do more.

Email thank-yous take many forms, depending on the circumstances. Notice that this thank-you from Charity: water ignores much of conventional wisdom about thanking donors. It is not personalized, and it does not serve as a receipt for my specific donation (an earlier email acknowledgment did that at the time I donated).

But it is a great way to cap off a campaign and report back to donors. So many times charities forget to get back to donors to let them know what they accomplished in very specific terms. There are many ways to report back to donors, such as through newsletters and annual reports, but those are often received long after the glow of giving has faded.

Charity: water’s model is a good one for completing the giving circle and re-energizing donors to do even more. The organization ran a time-limited campaign, with a specific goal, and then was able to report back quickly, combining that with a thank-you.

Here are more examples of emailed thank-yous.

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  7. How to Thank a Donor by Email - 5 Best Practices

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