Guess who writes the best thank-you letter?

by Joanne Wallace

Happy dog face

I just got a completely kick-ass thank-you letter. It came from Wikipedia, and - get this - it arrived in my in-box FIVE MINUTES after I'd made a donation. This is what it said:

Dear Joanne,

You are amazing. Thank you so much for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation!

This is how we pay our bills -- it's people like you, giving five dollars, twenty dollars, a hundred dollars. My favourite donation last year was five pounds from a little girl in England, who had persuaded her parents to let her donate her allowance. It's people like you, joining with that girl, who make it possible for Wikipedia to continue providing free, easy access to unbiased information, for everyone around the world. For everyone who helps pay for it, and for those who can't afford to help. Thank you so much.

I know it's easy to ignore our appeals, and I'm glad that you didn't. From me, and from the tens of thousands of volunteers who write Wikipedia: thank you for helping us make the world a better place. We will use your money carefully, and I thank you for your trust in us.


Sue Gardner
Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director

Why is this letter so good? Let me count the ways:

  • It arrived immediately
  • It arrived immediately
  • It addresses me by my first name
  • It reassures me I'm both needed and appreciated (not to mention amazing)
  • It tells an inspiring story about a little girl donating her allowance
  • It paints me as one of a select tribe of generous, forward-thinking people nobly undertaking the task of keeping Wikipedia free for the masses.
  • It reminds me how generous I've been (and how blessed I am), by noting there are people who can't afford to donate
  • It promises to use my money both wisely and well
  • Did I mention, it arrived immediately?

In short, it makes me happy. Which is why I think the thank-you letter is more important than the appeal letter - and must be just as carefully crafted.

Woman looking boredToo often we slap off a thank-you letter, hurriedly reminding our donors how great we are. We yammer on about our mission, our goals, our lofty ideals. This is both backwards and boring. The point of the thank-you letter is to remind donors how great they are, and to reassure them their generosity has made a difference.

So next time you sit down to write a donor thank-you letter, stop focusing on yourself. Focus on the donor. Write from your heart, and aim to make that donor smile, thinking to herself "damn, I'm good. What would the world do without me?"





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