Inspiring Generosity: A Thank You Letter that Says “Wow!”


A Thank You Letter that Says “Wow!”
I’m in the post-glow of my pink-induced world caused by the Barbie movie. Two enthusiastic thumbs up! While I’m off trying to find my childhood Barbies (that still have their heads), I’m sending along one of my favorite old posts.

Late in July, my dear friend’s father passed away. Mr. Hendrick had always been so kind to me, especially when I was a poor missionary living far away from home in Richmond, Virginia. I was lucky to have visited with him three weeks before he died. Mr. Hendrick lived a long and wonderful faith-filled life of service. I wanted to honor him in some way.
I decided to make a small contribution in Mr. Hendrick’s memory to SOAR365 (formerly known as Greater Richmond ARC). My friend Meg has been a devoted volunteer at SOAR365 for many years and helped raise the funds for their fabulous new playground designed for people with developmental disabilities.
I made my donation electronically and easily. My first impression was a good one. But when I received the thank you letter a week later, that’s when I really had my socks knocked off (and that’s quite a sight).
Here’s the opening paragraph:
Dear Cesie:
            You opened your heart in memory of Arthur Hendrick, and as a result you are helping kids and adults with disabilities to thrive. I am so fortunate to have met both Arthur and Ann through my work with their daughter, Meg Hendrick Downs, who is one of Greater Richmond ARC’s favorite volunteers. How very special the Hendrick family is!
Let’s unpack this:
1. They spelled my name correctly. As I result, I wasn’t distracted or slightly annoyed. Getting someone’s name right is a big deal.
2. The first four words grabbed me emotionally. “You opened your heart…” clued me in that this was no ordinary thank you letter.
3.  It was personal. Someone took the time to personalize the first paragraph. Hint: it didn’t take them hours to do so. That special touch delivered an emotional punch that had me in tears.
4. There was one last surprise. Near the end of the letter (1½ pages, which is a little long but I was hooked), I was invited for a tour. And then this line, “Arthur was especially fond of the ARCpark, which he visited with Meg shortly after it opened in 2015.” At every turn, this letter was personalized seemingly just for me.
Compare this to a pre-typed thank you card that my husband recently received:
Fill in the blank, hand written: Dear Tom,
Thank you for your recent gift of $____ (amount hand-written). Because of your generosity, [name of organization deleted for obvious reasons] provides students, faculty and university staff a welcome place to gather [and by this time I had fallen asleep]… It ended with a hastily written “Many Thanks!” with two barely discernible signatures from two mystery people.
What a totally different giving experience. With SOAR365, I was emotionally hooked from the first line. I am ready to give again because someone took the time to be personal and help me feel invested.
Organization #2: What would inspire me to give again?
Fundraising guru Tom Ahern says,
“Your communication will comprise the entire experience most donors ever have with your charity…Every communication you send a donor – digital, print, by phone or in person – is also an encounter.”
As people of faith we are called to be thankful (if you’re having a hard time remembering where it says it in the Good Book, check out Psalm 100 or Psalm 139:13-17). Sometimes being thankful takes a little effort. The thank you letter you send to people in your congregation or organization can either leave them saying, “Meh” or “Wow.”

Let’s hope that your thankfulness always elicits a loud and enthusiastic, “Wow!”
Originally posted September 6, 2017.

Photo by Ka Young Seo @Pixabay

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a Stewardship Consultant for the OR-ID Annual Conference. She is also a Senior Ministry Strategist with Horizons Stewardship. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous churches and non-profit organizations. If you need to know the power of a thank you, take a look at this “On the Road” video. And have a hanky ready.
You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com, at CesieScheuermann.com, or at cesieds@horizons.net. Want to schedule a meeting? She’s got you covered!
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.