Say “Thank You” with a Story

Can a story make a more powerful thank you?Can a story make a more powerful thank you?

You’re a charitable person.  Let’s say you gave large donations to three organizations.

One of them sends you a one-line acknowledgement for tax purposes.

Another sends you a form letter that begins “On behalf of the Busy Community Organization, thanks for your donation of  $____ made on December 29.”

The third organization’s thank-you letter says:

You’ve never met Bill Whalen, but your donation helped him get through the toughest time of his life.

Bill (not his real name) is an Iraq War vet. He drove supplies over some of the toughest roads in the world. Twice, roadside bombs nearly killed him. One of his closest buddies was lost when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off, just yards in front of the vehicle Bill was driving.

Bill came back from Iraq in mental and physical pain. He used prescription drugs to ease the pain. When the prescription ended and the pain went on, he bought drugs on the street. Bill came to our program down thirty pounds from his normal weight, unable to sleep or eat.

Your donation paid for Bill to stay with us and go through rehab for an entire month. He stopped relying on drugs, began eating healthy meals, and got his first good night of sleep since June. In group counseling with other Iraq and Afghanistan vets, Bill learned that he was not alone. He will never have to be alone again.

Bill doesn’t know the names of the people who give to our organization to help him—but we know you. And we are sure he would want to thank you. So we want to say thank you. For saving a life. For Bill.

Which of these three thank-you letters will you remember? Which organization are you going to make a point of giving to again?

If you work for a nonprofit organization and are you’re in the middle of sending out thank-you letters for donations made at the end of 2014, stop. Are you sending out a curt acknowledgment, like the first organization? Are you sending a formulaic letter, like the second? Or…

Have you taken the time to find your “Bill Whalen” story?

If not, stop. Find that story. Put it in your thank-you letter. And people will thank you for your thank-you. They’ll remember your story. And they’ll give to you again.

Tomorrow we share a story about how you can empower, engage and connect using social media. I think you’ll enjoy how this story ends.

About the Author

Dennis Fischman owns Communicate! Consulting, where he helps local businesses and nonprofit organizations win loyal friends through their communications. He is a former senior manager of the Community Action Agency of Somerville, where he directed fundraising, marketing, and planning. Passionate about social change, he left this position so he could focus on helping tell their stories in person, in writing, and through the social media.

Dennis Fischman – who has written posts on Developing High Performing Teams.


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