Write a Fantastic Thank You Letter
Today would have been my mom’s 91st birthday—God rest her soul. My mom taught me a lot of things…some that would probably get her in a little trouble today. She was a firm believer that a little hot toddy, no matter what age, was a cure-all for every ailment. My mom was determined that I would be in that Brownie promotion ceremony. Yep, the flu was a lame excuse. That toddy sure seemed to do the trick. I was promoted and very happy too!
Mom did, however, pound one very crucial habit into my little pea brain: “You must always write a thank you letter.”
As a kid, I hated doing those dreaded thank you notes. I remember sitting at the table laboriously trying to think of things to write. However, I knew that if I didn't write them my mom would say (again), “Have you written Auntie Joansie a thank you letter? How about Aunt Vi?” So, without the assistance of a toddy, I dutifully wrote my notes.
Even way back then my mom had a good understanding of how to write an excellent thank you note:
- Personally thank someone by name for the gift (this is not a fill-in-the-blank form letter; there’s no “Dear Friend” – it’s to the person who gave the gift).
- Say what you’re going to do with the gift (give the reader confidence that their donation is being used wisely).
- Focus on the person you’re thanking (in other words—this isn’t about you—it’s about the person who gave you the gift).
- Thank them again.
- Hand-address the envelope (that personal touch can make all the difference).
My mom was no fundraising guru but she knew the basic principles. Penelope Burk, who is a donor-centered fundraising guru, adds these suggestions for moving your thank you letter from being good to being great (my comments are in parenthesis):
- It has an overall “can do” positive tone as opposed to a hand wringing one. (Though you may be tempted, this is not the time to say, “You didn't send enough! Our ship is sinking!”)
- It does not ask for another gift. (Some people disagree on this one but I’d never dream of saying, “Thanks for the birthday gift. Would you mind sending another one? I’ve included an envelope for your convenience.”)
- It communicates the excitement, gratitude, and inner warmth of the writer. (Really. Be expressive. No statistics. Practice your emotional quotient.)
- It grabs the reader’s attention in the opening sentence. (I love coming up with great first sentences. Here are a few: “What a blessing is was to open your letter!” “You made my day!” “We all let out a cheer when we received your letter!” You get the idea – enthusiastic, thankful, focused on the donor.)
- It is received by the donor promptly. (The industry standard is within 48 hours. No kidding. See how quickly you can get yours out.)
As an adult, I find that writing thank you letters can be F-U-N. They engage me in gratitude thinking and fill me with joy. So give it a try and write a thank you letter using these tips. Surprise someone in your organization or congregation whose financial gift has made a difference with a note of thanks. You’ll be the one who is happy you took the time.
Send me a copy of one of your thank you letters. I’ll post some of the best ones I get. Let’s inspire each other with gratitude!
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She hasn’t desired a hot toddy. Ever. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.