Much of the etiquette surrounding thanking donors pertains to physical thank you letters. But how do thank-you emails differ from their old-fashioned counterpart?

One of your first tasks is to set a clear protocol for when different thank you options should be used. Whether you send a personalized thank you email, a more formal postal letter, or an informal auto responder depends on your organization’s time and the size of a donor’s gift. The use of these three options need to be strategized; they all can and should play a unique role.

The auto-responder is the bare minimum of thanks that is required. Just like buying something online, most people want to know the transaction went through successfully. However, on its own, it isn’t really sufficient to let your donors know that they are appreciated. In almost every case, a more personalized email or postal thank you should follow.

As you craft your thank-you emails, here are some things to keep in mind.

Say thank you in a timely manner

If your donor is not thanked right away, they may believe that you do not view their gift as important. Make a point of thanking donors within a defined timeframe.

Don’t send from an unfamiliar email address

Worse than receiving a late thank-you is your donor mistaking the thank-you email for spam. Send your emails from a recognizable name in your organization and use an email address that is not institutionalized. Emails like donor-support@ or development@ can be a turn off to people by projecting a sense of informality. And ensure that thank-you comes from the same person every time which helps build familiarity, and comfort for the donor.

Create a specific subject line

You also don’t want your donors to think the email is just another fundraising ask – make sure that before they even open it, there is something in the subject line that alerts them that this is a thank-you message. You should test various options with subject lines to see which one gets opened the most.

Acknowledge past gifts

If a donor has given multiple times, let them know that you are especially thankful for their ongoing support of your organization’s mission.

Share the impact

Let the donor know the specific ways that their gift has benefitted the organization. What project or campaign did they help complete? Consider including impact stories or testimonials from those whom the work has benefitted. Emails are a great way to share video, images, and even audio. Make sure you take advantage of that aspect of the medium.