In 1987 I received a handwritten letter. A thank you.
I had run the Chelmsford Half marathon in Essex, UK. Turns it was my best ever time of 1 hour 28 mins ( I was twenty!). I also got some sponsorship for a local cause – towards the building of Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford.
And I got this letter.
It’s simply a handwritten letter from a woman called Glenda Lance thanking me for my sponsorship. I learned recently Glenda was one of the drivers behind the founding of Farleigh Hospice all those years ago.
What is extraordinary is I’ve kept it all this time. I didn’t know Glenda. I had no link to Chelmsford Hospice other than choosing them to benefit from the sponsorship I raised.
This was before I became a fundraiser! At the time I was a student studying engineering and spending my Summer working at Marconi.
So why did I keep it? I only raised £25.16! It felt, and still does, a perfectly natural thing to do. I couldn’t really explain it until I saw this TED talk the other day. The Art of Asking.
Watch this clip if you can. The storyteller, singer Amanda Palmer, is describing the moment a passer by put a donation in her ‘hat’ whilst she stood on a plinth frozen as one of those painted statues. It’s 1 minute in. Just watch another minute.
In essence a thank you says “I see you“. It says “You matter“. I think that’s why I kept the letter all these years.
Of course I still give and fundraise for charity but that’s the only thank you letter I have ever kept. Each week I’ll write at least one handwritten thank you to a donor and do my best to ensure any thank you we send is authentic and personal.
Thank you’s are often no more than receipts – automated with digital signatures and even standardised copy that is used for years. Yet a thank you is the one communication, done well and with authenticity, someone will read, and maybe even keep.
How many people keep your thank you letters?!