Fuel Your Capital Campaign by Saying ‘Thank You’
How many thank you notes, letters or emails do you write every day? Are they formal and official sounding, or do they really reflect your personal appreciation?
Here’s a thank you letter I received recently:
Thank you very much for your recent contribution to our xyz fund. Your gift will make it possible for us to do xxxxx with the children we serve at our organization.
…blah blah blah…"
It didn’t really say “blah blah blah,” but you get the idea!
My eyes stopped reading at the end of the second sentence because I knew the rest of it was just…"blah blah blah.”
It said all of the right things, but it didn’t hit home.
Formulaic Thank Yous Aren’t Going to Fly
So what’s wrong with formulaic writing?
It’s got no immediacy, energy or personal touch. It feels pat and obligatory. And right from the get go, my eyes glaze over. I’ll bet yours do too.
Unfortunately, the thank you note I received is common communications fare when people thank donors and volunteers on behalf of their organizations. The thanking process is seen as a necessary task rather than as a real opportunity to connect.
But today, with the immediacy and ease of email, there’s no need to rely solely on formulaic thank you notes. You can send a standard thank you note with its more formal language, but I encourage you to pair it with an email, phone call or text message that makes a more immediate and personal connection.
Instead, Make it Personal
What follows are several examples of what I might write. They won’t be your style, but that’s just the point. They are distinctly my style.
And that’s what makes them personal.
DON’T use my thank you notes for your volunteers or donors.
DO find your own style, which will be different from mine. It will capture who you are and because of that, it will communicate in a real and authentic way to your volunteers and donors.
Examples of MY Style
Wow. I’m sure you can’t even imagine what came over me when I saw your gift. It stopped me in my tracks. Why? Because it was from you!
You’ve helped us again and again in so many ways. You’ve given us advice… and great advice at that. You’ve introduced us to your friends. And now… a check. The words ‘thank you’ don’t come close to expressing how grateful I am to have you on our side.
The work you help us do really does change people’s lives.
With my profound appreciation,
Or, I might write something like this:
“Zowie, Sali! A check came from you in the mail today. And though you will get official thanks soon—you know, the ‘Dear Sali. Thank you for your generous gift…’ kind of thanks—I wanted to let you know that I saw your contribution, and I so appreciate it.
We’ve been friends and colleagues for years now, Sali, and so when you send a contribution to something I work so hard at, it makes me feel special. Your support means a great deal to me! And beyond that, it makes a big difference in keeping our work in the community alive.
Looking forward to seeing you soon.
Or even something as simple as this:
I’m racing off to a meeting this very minute, but I couldn’t resist shooting you an email to let you know that your gift, which just arrived, fills me with pleasure. We couldn’t do this without your support.
Stay tuned for more official thanks. But know that I appreciate you right this very minute! And now, I really am running late.
Or how about this to someone I’ve never even met:
We’ve never met. But when I opened the envelop with your check in it, I couldn’t help imagining you and thinking about the amazingness of getting a check from someone I don’t yet know.
I am reminded every day as I walk to the office that the work we do in this neighborhood makes a huge difference to many people; knowing that motivates my work. And your gift helps make that all possible. I hope you will come visit some day soon. I’d love to show you what your generosity helps make happen.
Thank you so very much, Jenny.
Shoot me an email, and we’ll set something up the next time you are in town.”
It takes no more than a minute or two to write an email like that or to send a short text.
Here’s an example of a text.
“Got your gift today. My heart is full of thanks for you!”
But while these little messages don’t take long to write and send, they can make ALL the difference in your campaign. (In fact, they can make a big difference in your life, but that’s the subject of a different post on the power of gratitude.)
Thank People Every Day to Energize Your Capital Campaign
Right from the start, get used to writing emails or texts to people every day, letting them know that you’ve noticed their work, commitment and energy and showing your appreciation for them.
Write them in your own style and from your heart. Don’t fret about grammar or anything else.
But do make sure that the message is real, immediate and heartfelt.
The Single Most Important Advice for Your Campaign
If you’re planning a capital campaign, here is (probably) the single most important piece of advice you’ll get:
- Spend time each and every day thanking people in a personal way.
- Thank them thoroughly for what they’re doing to help.
Send them an email or a text or give them a phone call to let them know that you recognize the ways they are helping and that you are personally grateful!
Knowing that you will be thanking people every day will help you notice the things people do in a more explicit and present way. I’ve found that when I look for things people do that are helpful, I stop noticing the things they do that are not!
What was the most personal way you’ve used to thank a donor? Share your story in the comments.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.