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.
Be Sincere When Saying Thank You
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 way of saying thank you means more than when delivered sincerely.
Timing is Everything When Saying Thank You
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. Remember, you can NEVER say “thank you” too often. Just as you can never say it 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 great way to thank donors. It is okay to leave a message – the effort to thank is what’s important. Important times to send a thank you:
- After a pledge or gift
- After each pledge payment
- Upon fulfillment of a pledge
- For past support
- Any time a meeting or proposal is accepted
Be Thoughtful When Saying Thank You
How do you thank someone? There are many ways to thank donors. What is important is to thank them 5-7 times BEFORE you ask for the next gift. 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. Be inventive and come up with new ideas to express “thanks.” Some examples of stewardship include:
- Phone calls
- Letters – be sure to hand sign and add a personal touch in a P.S. if its a form letter
- Greeting cards – consider a Thanksgiving card so it’s not lost in the Christmas mail rush
- Personal visits
- Invitations to events
- Personally deliver flowers
- Birthday cards
You Can’t Thank Enough People
Who do you thank? Obviously, anyone who gives a gift or has ever supported your organization. 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. 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.