Giving thanks

Aha!-ThankyouA gift. A donation. A lunch. A trip. Volunteering. An interview. They’re all grounds for a handwritten thank you note. To me, it’s a big priority.

It’s an appreciation I got from my father. Looming is the memory of my brother and I sitting at the dining room table, pens in our aching hands, scribbling thank you’s for everything you could think of, as he watched over our shoulders like a drill sergeant.

“That one doesn’t show enough appreciation! Did you appreciate that Highlights subscription from Aunt Maude?”

“Sir, yes sir!”

My memory tends to exaggerate. And my dad was nothing like a drill sergeant. And I don’t actually have an Aunt Maude. But I’m thankful for his caring. Because now, I really do think to send notes out, even for small things. And the one positive side of the handwritten note heading toward extinction is that people seem to appreciate it more when you write one.

With Thanksgiving a week away, I started thinking about how important saying thank you is in the world of higher education and non-profit marketing.

We work with organizations and universities who rely on alumni support, advocacy and patronage. It got me thinking. How powerful is the thank you in receiving further support? How well do organizations do at showing appreciation?

In a Bloomerang experiment, their team made a $5.00 donation to 50 individual nonprofits and kept attention on how each followed up:

  • 96% (48/50) sent an email receipt within 60 seconds of the donation, and 22 out of these 48 were sent from a payment processor;
  • 34% (17/50) sent a physical acknowledgement letter through the mail as the second response;
  • Only two out of these 17 were handwritten notes;
  • Zero thank you phone calls were made.

Do you think these nonprofits should have done something differently?

Development coach Shanon Doolitte writes, “Be a nice human. Say thank you, care deeply, and value kindness. Be unpredictable and unforgettable. Make your donors smile, celebrate their generosity, and tell them how they made the world a better place. Remember, the goal isn’t retention, it’s meaningful relationships.”

Shanon, I like your thinking.

As we lead our clients in marketing for capital campaigns, greater resources and further support, we will also hold true to my father’s principle that no gift should ever go unthanked.

Thank you isn’t the end of the campaign. Thank you is the campaign. It’s the entire relationship.

I regularly donate to a number of causes. And while I love my canvas NPR tote, and I love my World Wildlife Fund t-shirt, I’m not sure they were as meaningful to me as the little note that came with them.

And Dad, thank you for teaching me gratitude.