The Power of Thank You Notes

My mother was raised in society in the genteel south, and among many other skills and etiquettes she learned the value (even necessity) of personal, hand-written notes. She was wonderful about writing notes for all kinds of reasons, and my brothers and I were required to always write thank you notes when we received gifts from people outside the family.

When my younger brother began his career in the sales field, he took our mother’s advice and followed up every sales call with a hand-written thank you note. He outperformed virtually all his fellow salespeople and rose quickly to handling some of the company’s biggest accounts.

I brought the same philosophy into my ministry, and I have been writing thank you notes to my largest givers for many years now. The impact has been profound. I will never forget one gentleman, a leader in our church, who said to me, “Thank you for your note this week. In all my years of being in the church and giving to the church, yours was the very first thank-you I have ever gotten.”

In our busy and technology-soaked present, we express many sentiments through texts and emails because they have the power of instant communication. But the very ease with which we can fire off such missives diminishes their effect and value.

Just a few weeks ago, “Josh” from United Methodist Communications sent out a newsletter to subscribers suggesting that “paper is the new digital.” Now that virtually everything has shifted to electronic communication, few people get anything of real value in their mailboxes. When we send a note, an invitation, or a letter in an envelope with handwriting it stands out immediately, something people will want to open first.

It is important to understand that in the church world people participate through volunteering, or give financially, for two main reasons; firstly because they believe in the vision and mission, and secondly when they feel their contributions are appreciated.

Yes, writing a note to a parishioner by hand takes time. And the cost of stationery and postage may sway you to skip this form of communication. But if you took the time to write just two or three notes a day, the impact of your influence would grow exponentially.

In January of each year, I write 5 notes a week, thanking and praising the top 5, then the top 10, then the top 20 givers in our congregation. I have seen a difference in giving patterns as folks give more consistently and joyfully, because they know I have noticed, and have expressed my appreciation in such a personal way. It then becomes much easier to approach my top givers to discuss a donation to a capital campaign or a legacy gift.

There is never a downside to saying “thank you” – as we all should know by now, mother is always right!

Rev Dr Bruce Jones
Pastor , Concord UMC, Seaford, DE