A few years ago I finally threw it out. 

The paper was ripping and the light blue ink was hard to read, but still, I paused at length before finally tossing it in the trash. I’d kept it since October 1991 when it came, stamp affixed, in a nice embossed envelope. 21 words, written by hand, and sent from someone I deeply respected. 

A thank you card.

“Brian, What’s in the water up there? What an amazing month! Thanks for your business and thanks for being you ~ Bob”

Were those the exact words? No, they were not. But the “Brian” and “Bob” parts were there and something about him appreciating what I’d done was in there too. Also, holding on to it for years and years was absolutely true. I kept that note in the top right drawer of my desk and read it more times than I’d like to admit. 

That thank you mattered to me. 

The impact of a sincere, well delivered thank you cannot be overstated. A thank you is the easiest and most effective way to nurture any relationship. Honest, heartfelt thank yous build trust, inspire confidence, lift loyalty, and make an impression that lingers long after they are first experienced. 

Now of course, you’ve been thanking people for years, and if you’re running p2p fundraising events, you already know successful events require a lot of thank yous. So, whether you’re looking for some inspiration and new ideas, or somewhere to start, here are seven high-impact thank you ideas that work.

7 High-impact Thank You Ideas

  1. Postcards – Never forget the basics because they work everytime! Handwritten thank yous never go out of style. Use one of our designs, a postcard with your charity branding, or better yet, pick one up from a not-quite-exotic Canadian location and write, “I was in ________, thought of you, and wanted to say thanks for _________.” Stick a stamp on that puppy and you’ve got yourself a thank you that will land on someone’s fridge for months. Postcards, yes, it’s 1957 again. 
  1. Personal Video – Last year I gave to a local shelter who emailed me with an ask I couldn’t resist. A few days later, I received a one-minute video from their CEO who gushed some words of appreciation. It was way too much for the level of gift, but guess what? I shared it with most of my friends. That thank you landed well. So well that I gave again this year. You could do the same with your p2p event. When thank yous are personal, thoughtful, and shareable – you’ve hit the thank you trifecta. 
  1. CEO Call/Card – Your VIP fundraisers or Team Captains would be blown away to hear from your CEO/ED directly. How to make that happen?
    • Draw up a short list of your top 10 fundraisers, including their addresses and phone numbers, their team names, and how much they raised.
    • Give the list to your leader(s) and ask, “Please call these folks, thank them, and ask if they have any questions. If they don’t have any questions, ask them one simple question – ‘Why did you do this?’” 
    • These simple steps will lead to a sweet discussion that leaves both parties feeling encouraged.  
  1. Chair of the Board Call/Card – Same idea as above, except when you ask your Board Chair to make these calls, they have the advantage of saying, “I’m a volunteer just like you and I can’t begin to tell you how much this means to the charity, our leadership team, and of course our beneficiaries (you’d use another word)…” It’s always worthwhile for a board member to connect with the community of supporters. It’s a fiduciary ear to the ground that will instruct their BOD decision making and it leaves your Top 10s feeling recognized and appreciated.
  1. Social Media Shout Out – If the person(s) you want to thank are active on social media, imagine how they’d react to a public expression of thanks! Post meaningful shout outs online and tag those VIPs. Ensure the captions and sentiment feels personal and specific to each individual you’re thanking (think about including the same content/length as you would in a hand-written thank you card). Consider sharing a picture of the person (if it’s flattering) and tagging your CEO to widen the impact. 
  1. Group Thank You Email – A couple of years ago I gave to a walker who was participating in the Coldest Night of the Year. The day of the event I received an email where he named (by first name only) and thanked everyone who gave to him and what they meant to him. I was blown away. Not only did I love seeing the cohort of givers and reading what was great about each person, I blushed at his kind thank you to me too. They were short bullet points, nothing too fancy – but they were words from the heart and they had a real and lasting impact on me. It was an efficient use of his time too. Consider how you might use this approach with your groups of event volunteers, donors, vendors, or other stakeholders who deserve a thank you this year. 
  1. Connect the Dots – When a team captain or participant raises some big money (whatever big means to your charity) in a p2p fundraising event, one way to thank them is by connecting their fundraising dot to your charity impact dot. When you reach out to thank them, share a specific example of  how the funds they helped raise made a difference. 

“Do you remember the $3,500 your team raised a couple months ago? That money let’s us do this, that and this other thing, and because of that, we see or expect to see these things happen (insert impact).”

Make it easy for them to connect the dots and then say, “I want you to know how much we appreciate the way you busted your butt for us this year. THANK YOU.” 

Be Strategic With Your Thank Yous 

To maximize your stakeholder engagement you’ve got to be strategic with your thank yous. Make a plan, estimate the time it will take to recognize everyone, and have a budget in place to support these efforts. Think about who can help you complete these thank yous in a timely manner, and most of all, think about who gets what kind of thank you and from whom. 

Start at the top without apology. Thank your biggest fundraising captains and participants first. Thank your sponsors second. Then your key volunteer leaders and their teams. And then your average (but oh-so-important) fundraising participants. If they both self-donated and fundraised, be sure to acknowledge that. They’ll love it.

If your event has less than 150 participants and 100 of them fundraised for your charity, make sure those fundraisers get a thank you from you. In the early years, it’s worth the investment of your time. Don’t waste time thanking participants who didn’t do anything thinking that it will motivate them to do something next year – it probably won’t. 

Finally, send a thank you to your spouse, partner, kids, or parents because let’s be honest, there has never been a p2p fundraising event anywhere that didn’t include someone’s family stepping up to the plate to help. Thank them too. 

What makes a thank you land? Exactly what you’d expect – sincerity, warmth, and friendliness. According to Time magazine, we shouldn’t overthink it. Don’t agonize over the words. There is a lot of grace when gratitude is concerned. We love being thanked and as it turns out, thanking people is also good for us.