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Is it time for ‘thank you’ version 2.0?

11/01/2011

thank you note from http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/exhibitionist

Commissioner Gordon says :    I never said thank you.
Batman replies :    … and you’ll never have to.
Batman Begins

But human nature doesn’t generally work this way, right.  We like being thanked for our efforts and there’s no shame in that.  And its been empirically established that charities and social enterprises alike are more likely to be successful when they thank supporters and customers (see the blogroll for numerous examples).

After the latest round of Christmas donations, however, I am starting to think that we need to find a better way of doing it.  I keep my thank you letters and emails to learn from professionally, and in 2010 I’ve been lucky enough to receive nearly 50.

Take the logos away, however and it gets much harder to discern who is thanking me and for what.  I’m not suggesting this is a problem just yet but as I look into my crystal ball, I wonder about the merits of us all acting on exactly the same (good) advice.  Doesn’t best practice just become wallpaper in any discipline once it’s adopted by everyone?

And couldn’t we think about ways to acknowledge support, contributions or custom that make us stand out from the rest of the crowd; helping to nurture a more positive relationship with individuals?

So here are a few ideas to bend the system a little.  And before various gurus get on my case, I’m not committing heresy, here – I’m just suggesting a few thoughts to build on established best practice in an increasingly communications-saturated world.

  • Change the vocabulary – finding different ways of saying thank you will at least prevent boredom with your messages.  A little verbal rotation could help to refresh your messages.
  • Look at the frequency and format with which you say thank you.  If it is an email footer on every message you send out, it’s impact will diminish over time.
  • You can acknowledge instead of thank – we couldn’t have done this without you…
  • Tell a story or get a beneficiary message to underpin the thanks – makes it more personal and real.
  • Consign standard thank you’s to history.  Make the thanks or acknowledgements relevant to the contribution ie; if it’s for a donation, explain what it’s for or what you already did with it.  If it’s for volunteers, show them what their time actually achieves.
  • Celebrate your successes with people – parties, events, gifts and gestures which have a high perceived value (like giving staff members an extra two days’ holiday)
  • If appropriate, publicly acknowledge contributions in media or press activity or in other public forums.  Send any coverage to individuals to show how much you value their support or custom.  Nothing says ‘we love you’ to volunteers like a double-page spread in their local newspaper organised by the charity.
  • Thank them when they’re not expecting it – an out-of-the-blue thanks can let them know you still value and need their contribution.  I once successfully sent supporters Christmas tree decorations in the summer to help remind them that their ongoing help was hugely valuable.

What do you think?  Is it time to evolve our ‘thanks’ to be as tailored as the donation campaigns they follow?  Can we still be grateful to supporters and customers and differentiate ourselves from other organisations?

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* Original muchas gracias image sourced from http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/exhibitionist
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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/01/2011 9:49 am

    Top post Kevin, really useful – especially as a lot of stuff I read around this is so obvious it is hardly worth mentioning to anyone who has done more than 2 minutes of fundraising!

    Keep up the good work!

    Best wishes

    Vinny (formerly Arthritis Care – now at Teenage Cancer Trust)

    • Kevin Baughen permalink*
      12/01/2011 10:01 am

      Thanks for your thoughts Vincent, much appreciated.

      And I agree that the trouble with best practice is that it becomes more and more obvious as everyone picks up on it, which can dilute effectiveness over time.

      I hope all is going well at Teenage cancer Trust.

  2. 12/01/2011 7:39 pm

    Great post. I completely agree that ‘standard thanking’ should be eradicated. Doing something different and unexpected has to be the best way to demonstrate genuine gratitude.

    I saw a brilliant example last year, an American charity invited all Haiti donors into a telephone conference call to hear from a project worker exactly what their dollars were paying for and gave them the chance to ask questions. Very simple to organise – but a unique way of saying thank you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. 13/01/2011 8:25 am

    Great Post Kevin. Saying thank you is so important and doing it well makes you really stand out. I like the idea of hand written notes, I also love RTC’s (random thank you calls!)

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