6 thank you emails that land every time

It's no secret: Donations are the lifeblood of every nonprofit. And while generating this money is key, so is thanking the people who give to your cause. This encourages both first-time and established donors to give again, and also spreads the word about your work.

Cultivating the ongoing goodwill of existing donors is also critical due to the low-performance metrics of fundraising emails.

  • The average response rate is .05%.

  • The average clickthrough rate is .38%.

  • Fundraising emails generate $36 per 1,000 emails.

  • Only 1 donation is received for every 2,000 fundraising emails.

No pressure, right?

This is why it's important to thank each donor for every gift, large and small. To that end, here are six great examples to help you craft your next thank you letter or email.

Best practices for donation thank you emails

The most effective thank you emails do more than just offer an expression of gratitude. They also work to make a connection with the donor, showing how they’ve contributed to furthering your cause. And as noted above, this will build goodwill within your donor base.

Here are nine best practices for your next thank you email:  

  • personalize the email

  • make the donor the story

  • detail the specific results of the campaign they donated to

  • include links to more information

  • provide a photo to show the campaign's tangible impact

  • offer another opportunity to help—without asking for more money

  • have the email come from an executive in your organization

  • celebrate your successes thanks to donors without requiring a contribution

  • be grateful without using over-the-top language

This may seem like a lot to keep in mind, so let's see how it all works by looking at the examples below. But first, a note on designing your emails.

An important component of email design is the give and take between the arrangement of different text and visual elements. None of the examples below are meant to be prescriptive. Instead, they're better suited to help inspire different ideas and possibilities for your own emails.

1. Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world's largest independent cancer research charity. Public donations make up almost all of its budget, which included 423 million pounds for research alone in 2017 and 2018.     

Cancer Research
Image Source: CharityLink

Key takeaways:

  • The top of the email has a picture indicating the charity's primary mission: medical research.

  • The salutation is personalized to the recipient.

  • The first sentence makes the donor the story by focusing on "your support."

  • Additional information is provided about recent legislative efforts as well as significant investments in new radiotherapy machines.  

  • The closing emphasizes once again the role of the donor and displays gratitude: "Without you, none of this would be possible – thank you."

  • The second picture portrays a couple whose lives have been positively impacted by this charity.

  • A link is provided to Cancer Research UK's annual report for additional information about the charity operations. At the same time, this is phrased as enabling a donor to "discover some of the ways your support is making a difference.​


2. charity: water

The nonprofit charity: water helps make potable water more readily available in developing countries. Private donors cover operating costs, so all public donations support water projects in the field.     

Charity Water
Image Source: Charity Water

Key takeaways:

  • The role of the donor—and not charity: water—is highlighted at the outset, with the oversized line of text: "YOU DID IT!"

  • The specific $1.7 million achieved goal is clearly identified.

  • The large photo of the child happily drinking a glass of water demonstrates the organization’s mission as well as the results of this capital campaign for Rwanda.

  • The final paragraph is written in the second-person point of view (“you" and "your") with even more detailed statistics about the September Campaign for Rwanda. This continues to make the story about the donor's role.

  • The "thank you" at the end is not for the donation itself. Instead, it's for helping with the larger issue at hand: changing lives.

  • The overall design is also powerful by breaking away from the traditional thank you letter format.


3. Feeding America

Feeding America is the third-largest charity in the United States. It's comprised of over 200 food banks which collectively provide more than 4.3 billion meals annually.     

Feeding America
Image Source: Campaign Monitor

Key takeaways:

  • As a rule of thumb, clip art should be used sparingly, but it works here in highlighting the fall season when this email was sent.

  • As opposed to thanking donors for a specific contribution, this is a more general Thanksgiving holiday thank you letter to celebrate the results of overall giving during the year.

  • The body of the email is written in second person using "you" and "your."

  • The number of people helped by Feeding America (37 million) is identified.

  • Unlike the first two emails we looked at, this one comes from an executive at the organization and is personalized with a signature.

4. Love146

Founded in 2001, Love146's goal is to end the exploitation and trafficking of children around the world.     

Image Source: Blog CDN Classy

Key takeaways:

  • "Love146" isn't as immediately descriptive of the charity's work as our earlier examples, so it's helpful to include its mission (ending child trafficking and exploitation) under its logo at the top of the email.

  • The simple yet powerful graphic from the young student Sam also emphasizes Love146's focus on helping children.

  • The four paragraphs of subsequent text are much more than we've seen so far, and it allows the message to cover several important bases. The first paragraph provides a descriptive anecdote. The next one uses second-person to emphasize the role of the donor. The third celebrates all gifts, large and small. The final paragraph identifies the programs helped by these contributions.

  • Like Feeding America, this email comes from a specific executive in the organization.

There's something interesting going on in the final section at the bottom. It provides specific figures for the campaign, which has already raised more than its initial $60,000 goal. At the same time, it’s soliciting yet another donation even though most donors make a single contribution each year. Perhaps this method works here as the email emphasizes how #GivingTuesday is one of Love146's major fundraising sources. We'd suggest, however, using this approach of asking for a follow-up donation sparingly, if at all.


5. Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan Cancer Support is another large UK charity. It provides healthcare as well as financial and emotional support to cancer patients and their families.     

Macmillan Cancer Support
Image Source: Martin Lugton

Key takeaways:

  • The email begins by telling the donor how amazing he is for donating.

  • This opening may seem a bit incongruous given the contribution was one pound. Then again, think back to how many emails are sent to receive one donation.

  • Unlike the Love146 email which asks for another contribution, Macmillan Cancer Support offers donors a different way to further help: become an "e-campaigner."

  • It's savvy to prominently include three options for donors to share what they've done. First, they receive praise from peers in their social networks. Equally important, it also allows a charity to leverage donors' social networks.  


6. San Francisco-Marin Food Bank

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is dedicated to providing innovative programs to end hunger in the San Francisco Bay area. It serves more than 200,000 people and has a donor base including individual, community, corporate, and foundation partners.      

SF Marin
Image Source: Campaign Monitor

Key takeaways:

  • This email begins with the goal achieved (300,000 meals) even though it states "we" as opposed to saying, as we've seen earlier, it was "you" who helped do this.

  • The salutation incorporates the donor's name.

  • The body of this message is presented more like a traditional thank you letter than examples like charity: water.

  • The orange text in the middle of the email highlights a specific result as well as visually breaking up the black text above and below. It also ties into a primary color used in the charity's design scheme.

  • As opposed to coming from a lower-level charity executive as we've seen above, this email is from the executive director.  Plus, the photo puts a face with the name as with the Love146 email.

Wrap up

A thank you email is much more than just a thank you letter. Paradoxical, I know. But it should also enhance the connection with each donor to facilitate future fundraising. At the same time, you must be sincere in your gratitude and be less focused on generating money.  

For more about effective email fundraising, take a look at these resources:

The best nonprofits offer us the chance to do something extraordinary: have a tangible impact on the world. That's why it's important to make sure all your efforts are working in harmony to achieve this goal.



Is your nonprofit having a fundraising event? Check out our guide to the four best ways to grow your event's mailing list!


About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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