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Imagine you donated $20 to 20 different charities.

Fifteen of them sent you a cookie-cutter thank you letter about two weeks after you made your donation. Five emailed you an instant thank you. Of those five, just one followed up with a tax receipt in the mail.

Any guesses as to which charity you might continue to support?

The power of a thank you email should never be underestimated. But how do you write one that’s clear, personal, warm and engaging? And what other emails should you be sending to your donors to remind them that you appreciate their support?


Here are 6 emails you need to send, now.


1. The Thank You Email

One of the best donor retention tools is the tried and tested thank you email. Even better if it’s personalised, which increases the chances of your email being opened by 26%. Send a thank you as soon as an action has taken place, whether that’s a donation, signing a petition or joining a fundraising event.

The key to a good thank you email is to make it as donor-centric as possible. It should be filled with sentences like this:

“Thank you for your recent generosity … ”

“Because of you, we can … “

“Your kind gift will ensure … “

“We truly couldn’t do it without you … “

See the common theme here? You’re putting their actions front and centre and reinforcing just how important their support really is.

Pro tip: Try using their first name or the amount they donated to craft a more intimate and meaningful message. You could also include a staff person’s information, for example: If you have any questions about your donation, please email


2. The Welcome Email

What do you do if someone knocks on your door with a gift? If you’re anything like me, you’d greet the person warmly and invite them inside.

A welcome email is no different. It’s a golden opportunity to welcome someone to your cause, show them the impact of their support, learn more about what you do and highlight others ways to get involved, such as volunteering, workplace giving, community fundraising and events.

When we talk about donor retention we always start at the beginning. Someone knocks, you welcome them with open arms. You spend time building a relationship and then, when the time is right, you move them along the donor journey and nurture these people into life-long givers.

Pro Tip: On average, a welcome email series drives more revenue than having a single welcome email or none at all.


Here’s an example:

Yvonne signs up to your mailing list via your website. She gets an immediate welcome email that tells her:

  1. You’re excited to have her onboard
  2. She will be receiving a few more emails over the coming days to get to know you better.
  3. In the meantime, she can connect with you on social media via a bunch of links you’ve provided.
  4. And, if she has any questions or wants to learn more, there are contact details for key individuals.

A week later, Yvonne gets another email as part of your welcome series. This time, it has:

  1. A short video showing the recent impact your organisation has made, with the help of supporters like her.
  2. An invite for Yvonne to sign up to your next event.
  3. An easy way she can spread the word and share it with her friends.


The final email in the series, sent another week later, has:

  1. A wonderful, uplifting story from someone who has actually benefited from your organisation, which clearly shows the difference you make.
  2. A link to a blog post to learn more.
  3. A thank you to Yvonne for her support. No fundraising ask is needed, but the seed has most definitely been planted.


3. The Content Email

The success of your fundraising is dependent on the relationships you build with your donors. One way to give donors a fulfilling experience in exchange for their generosity is by making them feel valued and engaged.

A content email is great for this purpose because it provides the donor with something of value. For example:

  • I give to a charity that supports research into diabetes. I get a family-friendly sugar-free recipe perfect for Christmas lunch.
  • I give to a charity that provides free counselling for kids struggling with their mental health. I get a link to an interesting podcast to listen to on my drive to work.
  • I give to a charity that protects the environment. I get a free downloadable guide on easy ways to reduce my household waste.


4. The Survey Email

Donor insights are invaluable. They allow you to make informed decisions about any changes you plan to make, as well as tailoring your communications to better suit an individual’s needs. Plus, when donors know you value their opinions, they’re more likely to stick around.

You could use a survey email to discover how donors feel about your organisation, why they give, what aspect of your work is important to them, what they feel could be improved, if they support other charities, and if they’re satisfied with the impact you’re making – among other things.

And if you’re worried no one will respond, don’t be! Donors love to get involved and what better than a two-way conversation.

Just remember to follow through – there’s no point asking for their thoughts if you have no intention of using their insights for meaningful change. It would only serve to show them that you don’t care and their time was wasted.


5. The Impact Email

Donors who give money to your cause really do care, and they have a right to see the impact that their contributions are making.

So engage them with an impact email or newsletter. Highlight all the good they’re accomplishing and give them the opportunity to continue reading more online, for example with a blog post or video.

What can you update them on?

  • The progress of a specific program or campaign, including updated stats and quotes from people who have benefited.
  • Major organisational milestones like the number of people you’ve helped or the amount raised to date.
  • An annual report that has been edited down into several bite-size pieces.
  • A story that shows the transformation of a person or project.

Pro tip: Leave the ask out of an impact email.


6. The Ask Email

Asking your new donor to give again is one of the most important steps you can take. And while the research differs slightly, it seems that the most effective time to ask for a second gift is within 60-90 days of the first gift.

Securing that second gift is key, because it means a donor has moved beyond impulse giving and is now truly supporting your cause by consciously choosing to provide funds.

So how do you do this without coming across as pushy?

  1. Acknowledge the first gift with a sincere thank you, and show them the specific impact of their gift. This will make them feel appreciated and proud by knowing their contribution really did make a positive difference.
  2. Ask for a modest dollar contribution. For a second gift, you may want to encourage your donors to become monthly givers. If they initially gave $100, you could ask for a contribution that matches that over the course of a year, for example $10 a month.
  3. Ask for a gift towards a specific issue you know concerns them. If their first gift was to support abused and abandoned dogs, ask for a donation that covers a month’s supply of food for a litter of puppies.

You can send just one of these emails, or a set or all six – preferably within the first 30 days of receiving a first gift from a donor. The aim is to become a familiar face in your donor’s inbox, and by providing a tonne of value up front you’ll likely keep them for the long-haul.