20 Ways to Say Thank You
The other day, I was rummaging through some papers I had put aside in my filing cabinet.
Are you like I am? There are bits and pieces I read or get in the mail that are far too helpful to throw away. And not specific enough to put in a separate file.
I thought so. You have the same problem.
I used to throw material I didn’t know what to do with— into a desk drawer. Then when the drawer became bulging with so much paper it was difficult to open, let alone find something— I transferred it all to the larger drawer where you no longer keep the big files. (Don’t be so darn condescending. You’ve been doing the same thing !)
Now I have a file I call, “Good Stuff.” All the “good stuff” goes in that file instead of desk drawer. I give you permission to use my “Good Stuff” idea. You don’t even have to give me attribution.
I was going through my “Good Stuff” file the other day. I came across a very special piece by that genius, Penelope Burke. It’s all about acknowledging gifts. She says the thank you is the first step in getting the next gift. I totally agree.
Here’s her roster of 20 ideas that make your thank you superior. [The bracketed references are mine.]
- The thank you letter is a real letter, not a pre-printed card. [And the letter is written as if it was personally meant for the donor. Not something that shouts, “This same letter is boiler plate going to hundreds of others.]
- Personally addressed.
- Has a personal salutation. [No “Dear Donor” or “Dear Friend.”]
- Is personally signed. [Maybe even a handwritten note to go at the bottom of the letter.]
- Is personally signed by someone from the highest ranks of the organization.
- Makes specific reference to the intended use of funds.
- Indicates approximately when the donor will receive an update on the program being funded. [Great idea !]
- Includes the name and phone number of a staff person the donor can contact at any time or an invitation to contact the writer directly. [It’s very special if the CEO who signs the letter writes, “Call me at any time on my private line— # ________ or my cell phone # ________ if you have any questions or concerns.]
- Does not ask for another gift.
- Does not ask the donor to do anything (like complete an enclosed survey, for example).
- Acknowledges the donor’s past giving, where applicable. [And the number of years of continuous giving.]
- Contains no spelling or grammatical errors. [I give you permission to be a bit colloquial. I want the letter to read as if you are actually speaking to the donor.]
- Has an overall “can-do,” positive tone as opposed to hand-wringing. [Urgency is okay. The ship is sinking is not.]
- Communicates the excitement, gratitude, and inner warmth of the writer.
- Grabs the reader’s attention in the opening sentence. [Remember, it’s not about the organization. It’s about the donor.]
- Speaks directly to the donor.
- Does not continue to “sell.” [I’m in favor of subtle “selling” all the time.]
- Is concise— no more than two short paragraphs long. [I give you permission to go for a few more paragraphs— just so they are compelling and applaud the donor in dramatic terms for their gift.]
- Is received by the donor promptly. [Should be within 48 hours. With today’s computers, there is no reason to delay. Consider sending out the receipt immediately, and then followed with a letter in a few days.]
- In some circumstances, the letter is handwritten. [A personal note is a great idea. This can be very special if a letter is sent immediately following the gift and a note of appreciation in a month or two. “We couldn’t do it without you.”]
Obviously, if stewardship is not important to you, none of this matters. If attrition doesn’t concern you, you can disregard all this. But . . . if you want to retain your donors, if you want to increase their giving in future years— these twenty ideas are your road signs on the journey.