Penelope Burk

Author | Researcher | Speaker | Fundraising Expert


Q: In these extraordinary times, is it OK to send a thank you email to donors rather than a letter in the mail?

A: While our research confirms that a thank you email is OK with the majority of donors who give online, these anxiety-ridden times offer fundraisers an opportunity to do something special for donors who have just done something special for you. At this singular moment in history, personal thank you’s that read and feel like you made an extra effort are especially appreciated by donors. Sending a thank you letter in the mail, especially one that is hand-written, says to donors that they are on your mind. And, unlike emails, mailed letters, if they are Donor-Centered, are read over and over again and kept for future reference. Of course, personal thank you’s are even more coveted by donors when signed by someone influential in your organization, such as a board member, the CEO, or an individual who represents your mission at the highest level (a professor, physician, or artist, for example). Don’t have time to do this with all your donors? That’s actually an opportunity to test one approach against another. Send some donors who gave online an email thank you and others a personal letter in the mail, such as I described. Record who got which kind of acknowledgement, then compare the two groups for renewal rate and average gift value increase in your next campaign.

Editor’s Note: We just published Donor-Centered Thank You Letters, a collection of acknowledgement letters to inspire your creativity. More information on this new publication can be found here.

Do you have a fundraising or management question for Penelope? If so, submit your question in confidence below.


Donor-Centered Fundraising


Fully updated, substantially expanded, and backed by all-new research with tens of thousands of donors. Donor-Centered Fundraising is the proven strategy for holding onto your donors and raising much more money in a changing giving environment.

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