Writing Killer Thank You Notes: A Guide for Your Nonprofit Organization

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | August 2021


Never underestimate the power of gratitude. Most people are taught at an early age that saying "thank you" is important. But do those two simple words really mean that much to others? Generally, yes, it does. Saying "thank you" may seem like a small gesture, but it can have a big impact on someone's life. History has shown that people are more inclined to help others if they feel that they will be appreciated for their efforts.

The Importance of Writing a Thank You Note

Showing your gratitude and appreciation probably seems like an easy task. However, if you run a non-profit organization and have a full list of donors and volunteers to thank, sending out 20 different emails that simply say "thanks," is probably not ideal.

Instead, you need to recognize that everyone made a unique contribution to your organization. Writing a thank you note is a great way to illustrate just how much you appreciate their help. When you write someone a thank you note, you are putting a small, personalized spotlight on that person. You are also letting them know that their good deed did not go unnoticed. This show of appreciation and recognition will go a long way in your deepening the relationship that this person has with your organization.

Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Thank You Note

All of the thank you notes that you send out should be personalized. Each note should be individually written with one person (or company) in mind. Sending the same generic letter to everyone can seem a bit too impersonal. And the recipient will not feel that your appreciation is genuine.

In order to ensure that your notes have a more personalized feel, here is a look at some of the things to consider when writing the letter.

1. Use the Recipient's Name

Instead of saying, "To Whom it may concern," make sure to use the recipient's name. You don't have to call them by their first name if you are not comfortable with doing that. But if you at least refer to them as Mr., Ms., or Mx. [ Last Name ], you will let them know that the note is specifically for them.

2. Don't Wait to Send a Note

It's a good idea to send a thank-you note as soon as possible. Most thank you notes are sent no longer than one month after the donation or good deed was given. Keep in mind, however, that it's more important to send a late thank you note than no thank you note at all.

3. Let the Recipient Know the Impact of Their Good Deed

Make sure that every recipient knows how their good deed helped your organization. For example, let's imagine that your organization gives out free school supplies to children, and the recipient of the letter donated 100 backpacks. In the letter, let the person know that there are 100 children that are now able to easily carry their books to and from school because of their donation. By using real stories and testimonials, you help the recipient make an even deeper connection with your organization.

4. Sign Your Name at the bottom of the Note

In addition to using the recipient's name at the top, you also should use your own name at the bottom. Instead of writing "Sincerely, [name of nonprofit], you should use your own name or the name of someone in the organization. Using a name also gives the recipient someone to contact in case they have feedback or a question. 

5. Keep the Focus on Showing Your Appreciation

When writing a thank you note, the entire focus should be on showing your appreciation to the recipient. This is not the time to ask them for more donations or to volunteer again. Think of this as the outbreathe. Instead, you should only be using this letter to show them how much your organization has benefited from their good deeds.

6. Keep the Note Short and Sweet

While most everyone loves being appreciated, they don't like having to read a five-page letter about your appreciation. Remember, your donors are probably busy people. Keep the letter concise and straight to the point.

Bonus Benefits of Writing Thank You Notes

They say that happiness is contagious. This may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but writing a thank you note can actually help to make the world a better place. When you show someone your appreciation, it will put an instant smile on their face. And studies have shown that when a person is happy, other people in their social networks have a greater chance at being happy as well.

Other studies have also suggested that showing gratitude towards others can also be beneficial to your health. When you make someone feel good, it automatically makes you feel good as well. And creating happiness for yourself can help you to feel less stressed, which is great for both your emotional and physical well-being.

Thank You Notes: Three Inspiring Examples

Here are a few examples of the different kinds of thank you notes that you can write.

Sample 1 – The Donation Letter

Dear Susan,

Thank you for your generous donation of $150 to the Perfect Paws Animal Shelter. Because of your donation, we will be able to find homes for 200 abandoned pets.

Your donation allowed us to provide care to several animals. And two of those animals were recently able to find their forever homes. They now have food and shelter security and will no longer feel lost and abandoned.

Once again, I want to thank you for your contribution. Without you, many abandoned pets would not have a bright future.


Jane Dodge, Executive Director


Sample 2 – The Attendance Letter

Dear Jenny,

I would like to thank you for attending our annual fundraiser.

This year, we were able to raise $40,000. The money will be used to fulfill our mission – eliminating food insecurities.

Our goal for this year was to provide meals for 200,000 families. And it looks like we will be able to meet our goal!

Thanks again. Your attendance alone helps to bring awareness to our cause.


Alexia Smith

Sample 3 – The Volunteer Letter

Dear Dave,

Thank you for volunteering at our School Supply Giveaway event.

It was a pleasure getting to work with you as we helped to ensure that hundreds of children would have the supplies that they need on the first day of school.

Jake Martin, age 6, said that he loved his new backpack and was excited for the new school year.

Every year, we depend on volunteers like you to help distribute the much-needed supplies to the kids of our community. This event would not have been successful without you.

With all my gratitude,

Donna Jones


Writing a thank you note is not only good for the recipient, but it is also beneficial to you and your organization. This simple act that only takes a few minutes out of your day, can leave a long-lasting impact on someone's life.

Topics: Nonprofit Help