How to make your Thank You SUPER
Why is it that the majority of Thank You letters to supporters are so instantly forgettable?
These are people we are supposedly trying to build a relationship with. Yet we send them passionless, insincere, automated garbage…if we bother to send them anything at all!
The secret to any successful relationship is good communication. Every contact, every communication you have with a supporter shapes the relationship. In short, every communication you send needs to be a love letter.
The way you thank a supporter is one of the most important love letters you will ever send. The long-term future of your relationship depends on it. That’s why you need to make sure it is SUPER:
Here are some tips to make sure your Thank You is SUPER:
Picture the scene. You’ve been getting to know your partner for a while and you like where things are heading. You’ve decided the time is right. Your stomach is in knots. You are terrified and excited in equal measure. Your brain is nervously coming up with reasons why you shouldn’t do it but your heart shouts louder. You look them firmly in the eye and take the plunge.
“I love you!”
Your words echo in your mind but your partner says nothing.
How do you feel?
Embarrassed? Betrayed? Like you’ve made a huge mistake?
Every second of silence screams out a clear message. They don’t love you as much as you love them. And once those doubts take root they are near impossible to shake.
In making a donation your supporter has made the terrifying and exhilarating leap of saying the first “I love you”.
So, don’t make them suffer that dark silence of waiting to find out if you love them too.
Saying Thank You is the first time you say “I love you, too” to your supporter. Don’t make them wait. Your SUPER Thank You should go out as soon as it possibly can – ideally within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
This is not just a case of good manners. There is another reason that you should be racing to get your Thank You out as quickly as possible.
When a person is made to feel valued and rewarded, serotonin and dopamine are released in their brain. And our brains are rather partial to serotonin and dopamine. In fact, this mood-enhancing cocktail can be quite addictive. The closer in time you can stimulate this surge of happiness to the act of making a donation, the more chance you have of your supporter remembering the donation as a pleasurable experience.
And pleasurable experiences are repeated.
As supporters, our rational brain knows that we are not the only person trying to have a relationship with our chosen organisation. For most of us, it also knows that other people are giving more and need more attention.
But our rational brains don’t make donations – our emotional hearts do. And, as far as our emotional hearts are concerned, we are the most important person in the world.
Sending a letter that is clearly mass-produced and mail-merged is unlikely to cut it with an emotional heart that longs to feel valued and significant. After all, if your Thank You looks, feels and sounds automated and generic the chances are it also looks, feels and sounds insincere.
A SUPER Thank You feels unique and personal to your supporter.
This doesn’t necessarily mean writing each new Thank You letter from scratch. But it does mean looking for opportunities to show your supporter that you recognise the relationship you have with them. This could include simple things like the supporter’s name (sounds simple but you’d be amazed how many organisations still send things saying Dear Supporter. Hardly the mark of a love letter!), the size and nature of their gift, what they have given to, why they’ve given (if you know) and their previous relationship with the organisation.
This also means thinking about who in your organisation should send the Thank You. Do they have a personal contact with someone at the organisation? Would they expect to receive something from a peer?
A simple way to make a Thank You feel unique is by handwriting part – if not all – of the letter. A handwritten salutation and signature will give your Thank You a human touch, whilst a handwritten envelope will help your Thank You stand out from the rest of the post.
There are times in life when we send letters where the last thing we want is a response. It’s usually when we are trying to end a relationship and get rid of someone – a soon-to-be-ex partner, a soon-to-be-rejected job applicant or a soon-to-be-redundant colleague. We call this letter the “Dear John”.
The purpose of a Dear John letter is to shut down conversation. As a result, they are short, functional and one-way. A Dear John talks at you in a blunt tone, with limited detail and even less emotion. You don’t read a Dear John letter – you suffer through one. Nobody likes to receive a Dear John.
But a donation is not the end of a relationship. It’s the beginning – the start of a new phase in your relationship. Rather than shutting someone out, a SUPER Thank You starts a conversation, inviting your supporter in and drawing them closer to you.
A SUPER Thank You asks questions. There is probably still a lot you don’t know about your supporter. Why did they give to you? What are their passions and interests? What are their turn-ons and turn-offs?
It also gives you a chance to find out what type of relationship they are looking for. How involved do they want to be? How do they want to learn about the impact their gift is having? Give them a chance to shape how they hear from you and the type of involvement they want.
Remember, if you want someone to engage you need to make it easy for them to reply. Ideally, pick a channel that is well-suited to two-way dialogue. For example, what’s stopping you from picking up the phone and thanking a supporter for their gift?
Your Thank You is a love letter, not a Dear John. Rather than shutting the conversation down, a SUPER Thank You paves the way for the relationship to progress.
You might not be able to achieve all of the points above in the same letter. For example, you might not be able to send a passionate thank you from the supporter’s personal contact in a timeframe that would be considered speedy.
In fact, it could be better than OK because a Thank You shouldn’t just happen once. A SUPER Thank You is repeated, taking different opportunities to thank the supporter and show them the impact their gift has had. In the example above, there is no reason why someone from the fundraising team can’t send the first passionate thank you, before their personal contact follows up in a more engaging way.
If you want your Thank You to be remembered, it needs to be repeated.
Too busy to be SUPER?
One of the most common reasons I hear from organisations trying to justify sending passionless, generic, forgettable thank yous is that they don’t have time to do better.
I have no time for people who say they have no time to thank their supporters properly. Here are two reasons why:
The first is that, like you, your supporter also has very limited time. They have their own to-do list to get through and their own throng of friends, family members, companies and charities chirping to get their attention. Yet they have taken time out of their day to show you some love by making a donation. The least you can do in return is to take a few minutes from your day to love them back.
The second reason is this. Not being thanked properly and not being shown the impact of their gift are two of the top three most common reasons supporters give for not giving a second donation having previously supported. So, if making your supporters feel SUPER is not enough motivation for you to improve your Thank You, perhaps you should try thinking of your PURSE…
The wonderful image at the top of the page is the work of an incredibly talented artist called Mark Petty. It’s called ‘Love Letters Only “Never Stop Writing”‘. The first time I saw it was on the side of a building in Croydon. I now have a Trial Print of the picture hanging in my office.
Mark has kindly given permission for me to reproduce the image on postcards to be shared with arts fundraisers as a constant reminder that everything we send to supporters should be a Love Letter.