Stand Out with Thank You Notes, Part II

Yesterday I wrote about how you can use thank you notes to set yourself apart from the competition, because lots of nonprofits (1) don’t do thank you notes at all, (2) don’t do them very well, or (3) overlook easy opportunities to touch their donors’ hearts.

Here’s another story for you about the power of a personalized note, even if the text of the note isn’t that stellar.

When I receive thank-you notes from charities, they usually get filed immediately in my tax deductions folder. But there’s one note that I’ve left on my desk for months now.

We vacation on Ocracoke in North Carolina’s Outer Banks every year, and this year, I noticed that Ocracoke Island Realty asked people renting houses to contribute to local charities. They would match the donations dollar for dollar. (Word to the wise: If you live near a vacation hot spot, copy this idea immediately!)

So I gave $10 each to a few of the charities, including Ocracoke Child Care. We always see the same wait staff working at two or three places, often in the same day, so I know that child care must be critical for the hard-working people who make my week of vacation such a pleasure. I expected the realty company to acknowledge the donation, but I did not really expect individual thank-you letters from the charities.

The typewritten part of the note I received from Ocracoke Child Care is about as short as you can get, something close to “Thanks for the donation. We really appreciate it. This letter is your receipt.” Not much more than that and certainly not remarkable.

But the letter is still on my desk because of what fills up all the white space left under that short official note — this drawing:

I have little kids and therefore more of this kind of stuff around my house than you can possibly imagine. But this grabbed me nonetheless. Why?

In part, because it was so unexpected, but primarily because even though I have no idea what these people actually look like, I can see the center director Amanda, who signed the letter, sitting down at one of those little tables and asking Yoselyn to grab a crayon and draw this picture for me. I can see her asking the little girl what this is (as it might not be quite obvious to the untrained eye) and adding the title and signature to this masterpiece. They took a little extra time to personalize this letter in a way that only an agency that works with little kids can, and I only sent them $10! But you can bet they’ll get more out of me next time we reserve a house.

Now, of course, kid artwork isn’t going to be appropriate for everyone. But every nonprofit can come up with some kind of equivalent way to personalize their thank you notes and make a much more direct, human connection between the donation and the standard thank-you letter in reply.

Here are a few more goodies for you about thank you notes from some notable voices:

From Jeff Brooks: 40 Thank You Notes = One Grateful Donor

From Katya Andresen: Thank Three Times for Each Ask

From Sandy Rees: Ten Ways to Energize Your Thank You Letters

I’ll talk more about thank you notes during next week’s webinar on nonprofit writing. Tell me about some of your favorite thank you notes by leaving a comment.



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  • What a great post, Kivi. I LOVE this thank you note. There is not enough of this personal touch in our world, and so when it happens, it really grabs us.

  • I love hearing different ways to show gratitude, and I love the duck picture. It’s awesome. My mind is buzzing with ideas of what I can do to give my thank you cards an unexpected personal touch. Great posts!

  • Dev Dept

    What a great idea! Would you mind posting a scan of the whole letter so we can see how the drawing was incorporated? Thanks for a really interesting post!

  • Kivi Leroux Miller

    It was just a simple letterhead with a very short typewritten note(two lines) and signature/title — typical business letter format. The drawing took up about a quarter of the piece of paper — the lower right side of the sheet, under the letter.

  • Pingback: A Great way to say thanks - Part 2 « Conor’s Fundraising Blog()

  • Thanks for the story! Kids can bring such joy into our stuffy “adult” world. It’s so refreshing (and memorable!)

  • Hi Kivi,
    So true! I received a handwritten note of thanks from a child who suffers from Juvenile Arthritis for my contribution to a an Arthritis Foundation scholarship. I gave that thank you note a special place in my home. Thanks for the great blog post.

  • hand written thank you letter, I have not received one so far in my life. when I receive it will make me happy.

    Thank you for the resource.

  • We have a fantastic children’s program and this is a beautiful idea for us! THANKS!

  • Pingback: Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog » Blog Archive » 10 Donations. 3 Thank-Yous. 7 Failures to Communicate.()

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