A personalized thank you can make a first-time supporter four times more likely to donate again if sent within 48 hours of the initial gift. On the flip side, 13% of donors don’t return because they were never thanked for their gift. Sending timely, thoughtful thank you emails to your donors is a critical stewardship point, especially during year-end.
Effective thank you messages are an opportunity to let your supporters know you appreciate them, show them how their donations will be put to use, and further communicate your brand and mission. The end of the year is also the perfect time to reflect on what they were able to help you accomplish throughout the year and how donations will allow you to meet your goals for the coming year.
Below, we cover six approaches to year-end thank you emails paired with real-world examples to inspire how you’ll add a personal touch to your end-of-year appreciation.
1. Highlight the Impact of Small Donations
Let your donors know that no matter the size of their gift, they are making a difference. Even if a donor gives just $5, that could be the start of a lifelong relationship with your organization. They may choose to become a recurring donor, volunteer at one of your events, or encourage their network to donate. By elevating the power of small donations in your year-end thank you email, you help cultivate that potential relationship.
In LoveYourBrain Foundation’s Giving Tuesday follow-up thank you email, the team shares that 70% of the donations they received were $100 or less, even though they raised an impressive total of $60,000. They use this figure to tie back to their mission by emphasizing the importance and power of coming together to create a supportive network, just like they do for people affected by traumatic brain injuries. This framing has the potential to encourage future support from the campaign’s donors.
2. Give a Simple Season’s Greetings
With the holidays, bookkeeping, and more, the year’s end is a busy time for many people. With so much information already coming their way, it can help to keep messaging short and sweet for your audience.
A quick email thanking your donors for their support and wishing them a joyous new year lets them know you’re thinking about them, grateful for them, and that you recognize this is a time to slow your communications and respect their time with their loved ones. It shows you’ll be back in touch when the new year kicks off.
This email doesn’t need to include an ask or anything that feels like it might be adding to the donor’s to-do list. Think of it as you would a snail mail holiday card from a friend.
In this example from Grassroots Soccer, the team includes short text that summarizes what the nonprofit’s mission is and that they’re grateful for any number of ways the supporter has helped throughout the year, whether running in a fundraising marathon, making a donation, or attending an event.
It uses bold, colorful text to emphasize a clear thank you that wishes the supporter a wonderful holiday season. This expansive thanks for support beyond just donations cultivates relationships in a way that could inspire a volunteer to become a future donor.
3. Use Data to Summarize the Year’s Impact
Using data to demonstrate your nonprofit’s impact throughout the past year fosters a sense of transparency and trust that you are allocating your fundraising revenue responsibly. It also paints a clear picture of what your donors made possible with their support. You can incorporate these figures into your thank you email to showcase exactly how your donors are helping you meet your mission.
This thank you email from Dear Jack Foundation almost serves as an annual report preview. The message starts by describing the nonprofit’s mission and then moves into a paragraph on how many people they were able to serve in each of their programs that year.
The different programs are hyperlinked so supporters can visit their website to learn more. It concludes with a mission-inspired photo collage to add an emotional, visual component.
This thank you email approach of including a more detailed letter to your supporters reiterates that donors can trust the nonprofit with their funding.
4. Showcase the Personal Side of Your Brand
While an email may not seem as personal as a handwritten thank you card, there are ways to incorporate a more personal tone. Your year-end thank you email is a great time to showcase the staff behind your work.
For example, if your development director or executive director usually signs thank you letters, have more of your services and support staff join in to sign your thank yous, as well. Photos and visuals that are lighthearted also tap into a cheerful sense of year-end gratitude and show a more intimate side of your organization.
Urban Ventures includes a large header image on its year-end thank you email with a photo collage of the many happy faces the nonprofit helped that year. This sets the tone for the email and makes the nonprofit’s mission come to life.
The message that follows is quick, focusing the email more on the emotion of the message rather than the text. To conclude, it reads, “On behalf of the Urban Ventures team and our 2,326 program participants…THANK YOU!” and is followed by the handwritten signatures of several program beneficiaries.
This personal approach is heartwarming and reminds supporters how their donations make a difference in real lives.
5. Incorporate a Video Message
Videos allow you to showcase emotional imagery from the field that connects your audience to your mission, and lets your staff speak directly to donors to express gratitude.
Storytelling videos are also gaining popularity throughout social media, so in addition to embedding the video into your year-end thank you email, you can also use it to reach a broader audience through your social channels. That way, if a supporter doesn’t open your email, your appreciation can still reach them through another platform.
In Water4’s year-end thank you, the message begins with a video from the nonprofit’s CEO. As he speaks, the video shows imagery from the field and graphics that show how they’ve been able to increase the impact of each donation on their mission.
While giving his thanks, the CEO then talks about hoping to have 30% more impact in the coming year than the record-breaking year they just had. The remainder of the email includes a couple action steps for how supporters can stay involved moving forward.
This type of forward-looking thank you video sets the tone for the nonprofit’s future messaging and goals, encouraging supporters to join them again in the new year.
6. Communicate an Opportunity to Meet Your Year-End Goal
Including an appeal in your thank you note can potentially make your gratitude seem ingenuine or opportunistic. It’s best to keep it donor-focused, expressing your appreciation and showing how the donor made a difference.
However, if you come up short of your year-end fundraising goal, you can make a soft ask in your thank you note letting supporters know, which can encourage additional donations. Just make sure that your messaging is primarily focused on how grateful you are for what you have been able to raise and what that amount will still allow you to accomplish. If you do receive additional gifts following this email, make sure to send another thank you to those donors for adding to your effort.
In World of Children’s year-end email, the nonprofit acknowledges that, while it came up short of its fundraising goal, it’s grateful for all it will be able to accomplish with the contributions so far. After a message of thanks, the email details a specific list of the activities the nonprofit will put the funding toward, clearly communicating how it still intends to make an impact with what it has.
Alongside the text is a goal thermometer that provides a visual cue for how close the nonprofit is to reaching its goal. This plays up the goal proximity effect, where people are more likely to donate if they see you’re close to meeting your goal. At the bottom of the email is linked text that says, “Wait! I Forgot to Donate!” This gives donors a chance to still support the cause, but is written in lighter lettering so as not to draw away from the bulk of the email, which is centered around the thank you.
Strengthen Donor Relationships With Personal Year-End Thank You Emails
Year-end thank you emails are important to show supporters what they’ve helped you accomplish. In expressing your gratitude, you can help them feel appreciated and inspired to join you again in your work next year.