I Do Exist! Getting the Thank You Letter Right
I’m trying not to develop a complex. A month ago I mailed two checks in memory of two individuals that I hold dear in my heart. The checks came from my personal account (as opposed to my joint account with my spouse). With each check I enclosed a hand-written letter about the person who I was memorializing. The responses from each organization are telling (or someone is trying to tell me something).
Letter #1 went to a church. And, you guessed it. I have not heard one word from them. No letter, no receipt, no nothing. I wonder if anyone read my letter about my friend. I wonder if anyone cared.
Letter #2 went to an organization that I am very familiar with. I did receive a thank you letter (a plus), but the envelope was addressed to my husband and myself. I could have overlooked that until I opened the letter to find the salutation: “Dear Tom.” I didn’t even exist. Worse still, there was nary a mention of the letter I sent. It was a standard thank you letter.
Fortunately, I know the Development Director and called her to let her know about my experience. Surprisingly, she had never seen my handwritten letter, and neither had the Executive Director. The person who was entering the information either threw the letter away or put it in an unknown file. The same person also saw our unusual last name in the database and never thought to amend the information to make it personal to me.
Here’s the takeaway:
1. If you get a gift, write a thank you letter. Period.
2. Everyone on staff is on the Stewardship Committee. Maybe they aren’t literally on the Stewardship Committee, but they need to be aware of the importance of stewarding relationships. Use a few minutes in a staff meeting to talk about it.
3. If someone takes the time to write a personal letter with a financial gift, make sure it gets passed on. Whoever is opening the mail needs to give a copy of the letter to you (the clergy person) and to the Stewardship Chair. In the thank you letter, someone should write a personal note indicating that they have read the letter and how its sentiments are appreciated.
4. Take note of who is sending the donation and how they might want to be addressed. No doubt mistakes will be made but sometimes, with a little attention to detail, they can be avoided. Oh, and make sure you spell the donor’s name correctly.
People want to feel like they matter. They want validation that what they have sent you has made a difference. That’s definitely something you can easily and happily make happen.
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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.