The art of saying thank you

I had that ‘Friday feeling’ the other week. The source ? An email from a supporter (who had gone to the trouble of finding out my direct email) saying thank you for my … thank you.

I had taken the trouble to hand write a thank you as she had taken the trouble to give £1,000. And I felt great because someone had thanked me.

So this blog is about the art of saying thank you. The thank you is so important and it’s the one written communication, done well, most donors will read word for word.

urlA thank you lines up your next gift. Weren’t you taught to write and say thank you to Aunt Edna if you wanted another present next year?!

I’m not getting into the fierce debate of whether you should include an ask or not in a thank you (you certainly wouldn’t ask a relative “and for next year I would like …”). What I do think, which applies in both cases, is you should invest time on crafting your thank you(s).

So here are my top tips:

1. Be creative. At home we finally got round to do our thank yous from Christmas last week. We made them as creative as possible. To family members who contributed to a coffee machine we were saving up for we stuck a coffee bean to the card. At SolarAid we sent donors a tea bag from Kenya and asked them to put the kettle on and have a drink on us. For those that give over a certain amount we now offer to send them a solar light! Check out the exhibit on SOFII.

2. Redo your thank you’s once a month. Find a new anecdote to tell. It will make you proactive and you’ll find you use the stories in talking to people too. It doesn’t have to be too long, Currently I tell a lovely two liner of a teacher called Francis from Kenya who has noticed the performance of children he teaches has improved since the introduction of solar lights and how “they now love books”.

3. Tell a story as it is and keep an eye out for fresh content. Then you can write, “I just heard this story which I want to share with you” and mean it too. Authenticity counts.

4. Make email thank you’s look less automated by including something that proves that it’s current and wasn’t written 2 years ago. For example it could be a link to a recent news item your cause was featured in or some recent milestone your organisation has achieved.

5. Print off your thank you copy and keep it to hand. Use it as a basis for handwritten thank you’s that you can do anywhere when you have 5 minutes to spare. I always vary them to reflect who I am writing to but it’s so useful to have a structure ready to hand.

6. Get an alert report of incoming donors who give a significant amount and arrange a handwritten thank you from a senior member of staff (what that donation level is depends on your organisation). I make a note of any donation over £500. Give someone responsibility to allocate thank yous to senior staff.

7. If you can top and tail printed thank you’s with a hand signature it makes them so much better. I used to get through a stack on a regular rail journey. It’s amazing what you can get through. When you sign a typed letter it makes you read them – and as a result improve them. Add a handwritten p.s. whilst you’re at it.

8. Have some simple cards printed with an inspiring photo of your work that are blank inside for you to handwrite a thank you.

Ocado9. For those long standing donors and regular donors who often miss out on thank you’s consider thanking them on their anniversary. Ocado who deliver our supermarket shopping send us an anniversary thank you every year – with a free bottle of wine!

10. Make it a prompt thank you whilst the gift is still in their memory. Best of all phone them up if you have their number and say their donation has just arrived. It’s a great excuse to chat to a donor and find out what motivated them to give to your cause.

Get noticed

So does it make a difference? Over the years I have enough feedback to suggest it really does.

When I worked for the amazing charity FARM-Africa, I was at the annual agricultural show when a couple walked upto the stand we were running. I asked if they knew about FARM-Africa and the wife promptly replied “Yes. In fact we just gave a donation and we got a lovely thank you letter”. She then paused and stared at me (and my name badge) and then cried “And it was from you!”.

At ActionAid a supporter phoned because they were astounded (and delighted) the Director of Fundraising had personally thanked them (the Retention & Development team lined up thank you’s to long standing donors).

And now at SolarAid I have had a run of emails and phone calls from donors thanking me for thanking them (maybe thank you’s really are a dying art).

So I’m now convinced they do get noticed. Isn’t that what you want to achieve?

There was one point that shocked me but on reflection didn’t surprise me. The donor I mentioned at the start wrote that although she had given regularly to many other charities no one had ever thanked her personally. That’s a real pity if we want to encourage a culture of giving.

So not only will you get noticed – you will stand out – because it seems few take the trouble it do it really well. I felt good on that Friday because someone had taken the trouble to thank me. Just think how good you could help people feel every day of the week from simply saying thank you really well.


Check out a couple of my other posts on the beauty and importance of thank you :

Thank you. You matter.

Why say thank you really well




8 thoughts on “The art of saying thank you

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  3. Just an update on why thank you’s are so worth it. Earlier this year at SolarAid we had a donation for £20,000 out of the blue. Gifts of this size are rare. We checked back and discovered we had received a first donation of £200 about 9 months earlier. In line with our ‘policy’ I had sent a hand written thank you. Maybe they would have given such a significant gift again anyway. But I like to think we gave a great impression from the outset, that was both memorable and inspiring.


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