10.14 Spice Up Your Thank You Notes

Dear Kim:

You are often quoted as saying things like, “Thank before you bank,” and “The thank you note is the most important element in a donor relationship” and other pro-thank you note statements.  But how do you make a thank you note interesting?  And do donors really read them?  And what if I think the gift the donor gave isn’t really what they could afford so I am not that thankful?


Dear Dubious:

Your letter poses several questions, and I will quickly dispatch the last one first.  You need to change up your attitude toward the gifts that are given to your organization.  Any gift is more than nothing, and donors are making all kinds of choices.  You really don’t know what people can afford and you need to thankful they thought of you.

Second, to make a thank you note interesting requires thinking that the work your organization does is interesting, then picking a part of that work and describing it in the letter.  The one thing we send donors we can be sure they read is a personal thank you note, with some personal note on it.  If the thank you note is clearly generic, probably the donors don’t read it.

I wonder if you should think about finding someone else in your organization to take over thank you notes, and you should take a short vacation.  When people can’t think of anything interesting to say, and then think no one is even reading what they write, and also feel that donors are not giving what they should be giving, I hear “I need a break.”  None of us feel excited about our work and our donors all the time, and we need to give ourselves some breathing space to get some rest and rejuvenation.

Be kind to yourself, and you will find it much easier to be kind to donors, including being grateful that they included your organization in the list of groups they give to.

Take care,


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