It's probably amplified by growing up in Texas, but I have a deep and abiding love of good manners. (Like, deep. I may be the last person on earth who enjoys being called ma'am.) So, not many things tickle me more than seeing so many of our nonprofit peers sending out such creative and genuine letters of thanks this week.
(My favorite so far, The Wildlife Conservation Society's email that's basically written via embedded GIFs of cute animals. Yawww... who could resist?)
But no matter the level of sophistication, it's a few things that really make the thank you's I love stand out...
- They're sincere. I know, duh, of course they should be sincere. But in fairness, it's all too easy to phone it in on a message that doesn't ask for something concrete. The thank you's I love most though, are rooted in good, personal writing. They are not written in some faceless organizational "we" -- they showcase your personality, your voice, and the little quirks and anecdotes that make you or your organization real. Expressing that uniqueness in a concise but authentic way is not easy, it takes attention and guts.
- They give me a sense of the big picture. Before we get to the actual thanking -- Thanksgiving calls us to lift our heads up above the daily grind and take stock. In the same way, I love thank you messages that give me a quick assessment of how their work is doing that year. Like a more interesting annual report wrapped up in a big thank you hug. This can be accomplished by something as simple (but cool!) as the top five victories Earthjustice's supporters made possible, to something as involved as the Humane Society's nifty and interactive infographic.
- They're creative AND relevant. Sure, creativity for the sake of creativity is neat. But the really good stuff is when you're creative in a way that seems entirely relevant to your community. A great example of this is Fountain House. Thanksgiving is their biggest celebration of the year, an evening when staff and members have dinner together. So every year they send supporters who can't be there a blank placemat where they can write a note of support to a member, and send it back in to be placed on the Thanksgiving table.
- They're not JUST an excuse to ask for more. As someone who identifies as a fundraiser, I'm definitely not against asking for gifts. However, the best fundraising is about relationships, and relationships are about a balance of giving and taking. This is the time for giving (ok maybe with a soft "ask" at the end). Messages that start out as thank yous but become quickly self-serving ("thank you for thinking we're so great, hey want to give us a gift?"), never ring as true as thank you's that focus on the reader and your shared values and victories.
- They showcase the ones you serve. As a supporter, I like to be thanked, but I also love to see that any organization truly values and celebrates the ones they serve. The USO did a lovely job of this this year, not only thanking me for my help, but also giving me a way to send a thank you of my own to the troops through their Thanks from everywhere action.
All in all, I've been pretty impressed with what I've seen this year so far. So, here's my own big thank you to all the organizations who are pushing themselves to thank their communities in authentic and creative ways. Y'all are keeping me inspired to keep it real in my own storytelling.
Have you seen thank you messages or campaigns that have inspired you this year? Give them a shout out in the comments, we'd love to see!