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Your Mother was Right

by on March 4, 2013

Remember how your mother always made you write those thank you notes?  I hated it. Little did I know, some years later I’d be writing hundreds of them … for work!Pick up any development guide and the first thing it tells you is to make the personal connection. Be real.  Say thank you. What is more personal, real, and displaying of thanks than the handwritten thank you note?

Each year my library engages in an annual giving holiday campaign. The donations trickle in, usually in sums of ten to one hundred dollars, adding up to thousands. For each of these donations, I write a personal, handwritten thank you note. At first these notes were very generic. As time has passed and I know my patrons better, some of my notes have grown more personal and heartfelt. Still, most people get the same standard form…just handwritten.

Initially, I felt this was a silly thing to do. It takes a lot of time and I couldn’t imagine it really having effect. In truth it was probably guilt that I didn’t do this in my personal life that kept me continuing the practice. Over the years, I’ve come to learn that it is worth every stamp and every muscle cramp as I’ve written the same monotonous line, “Thank you for your donation to….”

People adore it! They feel connected. Some admire the time commitment. Some take it very personally and as such, find it very touching. Some – mostly older donors –  see it as a sign of my manners and proper upbringing. I’ve had more comments on this practice than I have on library displays that have involved much more commitment.

The comments have also directly led to much more: the easy and natural development of relationships, conversations about the Library, and most significant, larger donations. Over the years, I’ve noticed some donors annually increase their donation amounts. One donor, in addition to supporting our annual campaign, came to the library with a substantial donation of stock.

While this might be coincidental and these additional donations not connected to the personal thank you, I’m not convinced.  Both of these parties were people who on multiple occasions commented favorably on my thank you notes.  One told me how much he appreciated the response and knew that I appreciated his donation because I had taken the time to write him so personally.  Others presume I know them well because of the note, when in truth, I don’t know them at all.  The donor couple  who donated stock started bringing us cookies each holiday after my thank you because they were “so lucky to still have a personal connection” with the Library.

While all donations of any kind get an acknowledgment, there are other thank you notes I write by hand.  Sympathy cards for people we knew well and acknowledgements for large donations of time or funds.  At least one hand written thank you for a large memorial donation has now grown to an annual donation and correspondence.

The expert’s opinions are one thing. But skeptic that I was,I am now convinced of the value of this practice based on personal experience.