Updated: Oct 6
My beloved grandmother Leota Schuler never went to college, was never wealthy and was certainly never famous (you've never heard of her, right?) She lived and died in the 20th Century; married and reared two boys; and lived her entire adult life in the little two-bedroom home her husband built.
She taught me lots of things - how to shell peas, how to make amazing pie crust, how to make sure there wasn't a snake in the basement before you went down; how to thread a needle (that was as far as my sewing skills advanced); how to design a quilt and - a really great lesson - the importance of writing a thank you note.
For her, writing timely and thoughtful thank you notes was something that all respectable people did. NOT writing a note was just "tacky," and that was the worst thing you could be. I can still hear her voice saying something like, "I brought her a casserole and she didn't so much as even write a thank you note!"
What Leota didn't know was that, by instilling the importance of thank you notes into my brain, she was helping me not just become a better person but a better fundraiser!
In this day of texts, emails, tweets and snapchats, a handwritten expression of gratitude STANDS OUT!
Writing short notes of thanks is considered a "best practice" in fundraising. It's also a great way to build relationships, solidify teams, create a positive environment and pave the road to future success.
Research from the University of Texas shows that people who receive hand-written notes say it increased their "happiness level" to a 4 or 5 (5=ecstatic), even though the sender thought it would only create a happiness score of 3. Even busy executives say they take time to open and read handwritten thank you notes.
Over the last several years, there has been a ton of research on how the practice of gratitude improves mental health, physical health, relationships and success. So writing and sending a thoughtful thank you note helps both the sender AND the receiver!
And here's a secret - you don't have to wait for someone to donate to your organization or give you a personal gift before you write a thank you note! You can thank someone for going to lunch with you, for helping you with a project, etc.
Components of a simple thank you note include:
Salutation- Dear [Name] or just their name
First sentence: A compliment and an acknowledgement.
Description of how what they did or gave helped.
Sincere expression of thanks.
Whatever else you want to say.
Closing - your name, position, organization, etc.
Dear Mr. Spokes,
You were so generous to donate 24 brand new children's bikes to our homeless shelter! Most of the kids here have never ridden a bike and they were so excited about getting to learn! Our activities director is doing lessons for about an hour every day after school with the kids. I can't thank you enough for making such a big difference in the lives of the kids we serve. I hope you'll be able to come out and join us at a bike lesson soon!
Note: this would just be the casual thank you note - the organization should send a longer, more formal note as well.
Hi Ellen - You are beautiful and hilarious and I loved having lunch with you yesterday. I'm pretty sure we disrupted other people's lunches laughing so much but I really needed that! Having a friend who brightens my day means so much to me. Thanks for being so awesome. Let's do it again soon.
Love ya! J
Dear Dr. Peterson,
You and Mr. Peterson were incredibly kind and thoughtful to send flowers after my surgery. When I woke up in my room, the first thing I saw was that beautiful arrangement. Every time I see them, it reminds me of you and your precious hearts. Thank you so much for being part of this journey with me. I look forward to getting together again soon.
As you can see from these examples, thank you notes can be as casual or formal as they need to be.
So keep a stack of cards, envelopes and stamps (what? stamps? yes!) handy and take time to write notes regularly.
As a fundraiser, you'll be doing the right thing and helping ensure future gifts. As a person, you'll be surprised at all the ways you'll benefit!
I write lots of thank you notes - and I don’t always enjoy doing them (to be honest) - but every time I do, there is a little part of me that knows Leota is happy that I’m doing it. I wish I could send her a note.