Thank You’s – What, When, How & Who
By Laura Robertson, Vice President
Saying “thank you” seems like such a simple thing to do. And yet, in development, it is probably the single most important thing you can do! What does it mean to say “thank you”? When do you thank someone? How do you thank them? And who is the “them” that you thank? Let’s look a little closer at these questions.
First of all, what does “thank you” mean? The definition of “thank” is to express gratitude, appreciation, or acknowledgment to. The definition of “thank you” is a sincere, genuine expression used to express appreciation. What are the most important words from that definition? If you said “sincere, genuine” you are right! No thank you means more than the sincerity of the person expressing his/her thanks.
When do you thank someone? The short answer is IMMEDIATELY! Nothing has more impact than thanking someone as soon as his/her gift is made. The longer answer is no more than 48-72 hours from the receipt of the gift, but the sooner the better when acknowledging appreciation of a gift. You can say thank you all the time and any time – remember, you can NEVER say “thank you” too often. Say thank you after a pledge or gift (regardless of dollar amount); after every pledge payment; upon fulfillment of a pledge; for past support to your organization; and anytime a meeting and/or proposal is accepted. Just as you can never say “thank you” too often, there is never a WRONG time to say “thank you.” Thank-a-thons (phone-a-thons held once a quarter where your organization’s staff and board members call donors just to say “thank you!”) are a hugely impactful way to thank donors. It is okay to leave a message – the effort to thank is what’s important.
How do you thank someone? There are many ways to say “thank you.” What is important is to thank a donor 5-7 times BEFORE you ask for the next gift. Now, does this mean you say 1.”thank you” 2. “thank you” 3. “thank you” 4. “thank you” 5.”thank you” 6. “thank you” 7. “thank you”? No! You have to put time, thought and effort into how you say “thank you.” Work on a formal stewardship plan for your organization – a written document detailing who thanks whom in what way and when. Remember, stewardship is a NECESSITY! A lack of stewardship is what keeps donors from making repeat gifts to an organization. Stewardship must be organized and structured – it will not be effective if you use a “shoot from the hip” approach. Some examples of stewardship touches include, but are not limited to: phone calls; letters (If using a form letter, be sure to hand sign and include a personalize P.S. Use the first name of the individual in the salutation if you know that donor personally.); greeting cards (consider Thanksgiving cards which are not lost in the Christmas mail rush); personal visits (use these to present stewardship and/or annual reports); invitations to an athletic event, graduation or to speak to a class; personally deliver flowers (poinsettias at Christmas or mums at Thanksgiving, etc.); birthday cards; and including donors’ names (first and last) alphabetically in printed materials such as newsletters. Be inventive and come up with new ideas to express “thanks.”
Who do you thank? Obviously anyone who gives a gift or has ever supported your organization. That is the simple answer. But there are ways to structure “who” you thank to be most effective. The president or CEO of the organization should carry a card at all times with the top 25 donors and their phone numbers and call them just to say thank you for their support. This can be done in spare minutes here or there but really does make a lasting impression on donors that your organization values them and appreciates what they have done. The board chairman and board members likewise can take a list of donors and call and thank them as well. These lists can simply be divided up alphabetically among the board members – you don’t have to know someone personally to call and thank them. The solicitor should ALWAYS thank a potential donor for agreeing to meet and for considering a proposal.
Saying “thank you” goes a long way in the business of development. While inherently simple, when done the right way, and done consistently, saying “thank you” will do more to transform a one-time donor into a lifetime supporter than any other action you can take.