Writing thank you notes is a lost art. This was never more clear to me than a month or so ago. A college student we know was preparing to go overseas for a summer ministry and sent us a letter requesting our prayer and financial support. Since we believe in this student and their work, we sent off a check. While we later got an updated support letter, we never got a thank you note.
I didn't really think any more about it until someone else mentioned getting a support letter from the same person and that they were wondering whether they should contribute. Why was there an question? Because that person had never received a thank you from previous years' support. Years plural, not year.
That got me thinking again about a great podcast I listened to back in March. Produced by my favorite management gurus Mike & Mark, they give some great guidelines for the lost art of thank you note writing.
Here are some key take-aways:
- Materials - Store bought is fine, but an upgrade is worth it. Some people get hung up on the quality of the materials and never right the card. They're afraid store bought cards aren't good enough. WRITE THE CARD... with whatever you have!
- Only say "thank you" twice in the body of the note.
- Never ask a question or request a favor in a thank you note. It completely negates the value of your note. Maybe this is obvious but it should be stated.
- It is never too late to write a "thank you". It's never, never, never too late to send a thank you note. The debt owed by a kindness never expires.
- Hand-written is always best, even if you're handwriting isn't good.
- If you're thanking someone for a financial gift, don't mention the amount in the thank you. This makes the note about the money and not about the relationship.
What should you write in a thank you? Here's a simple format to get you started. It should generally be three paragraphs:
First paragraph: One sentence long where you say "thank you". Like, "Thank you for your generous gift." "Thank you for hosting us for dinner last night."
Second paragraph: Two sentences written to personalize the note. This communicates you've thought about the recipient and not sent them a templated note. For example, "The steak was great and the company was better. I'll always remember the jokes we shared."
Third paragraph: Simply restate your thanks in one sentence. "Again, you have my thanks and best wishes" or "Again, I'm in your debt and look forward to returning the favor."
That's just a simple format that covers all the bases and gives you a structure on which to build.
Earlier in the year I had several lunches with a wealthy man who has contributed significantly to several organizations, including my own. He shared with me that he had once contacted an agency and asked how much it took to support one missionary family for a year on the field. When he got the answer he wrote a check to support a particular missionary with that organization. Months and months went by and he never heard from either the organization or the supported missionary. He never did. And he never sent a check like that again.
He told me, I didn't want a plaque, I didn't want a big thing made out of my gift. I really just wanted some feedback that the gift had arrived and had the intended effect.
Missionaries, by virtue of their calling, often find themselves on the receiving end of things. Their lives and work depend on the graciousness and generosity of others. Let's make sure we're equally as gracious in thanking the people who make our work possible.