3 specific ways to thank people well.

When I was serving as a youth pastor at a congregation, Tuesday was letter writing day. My goal that day was to write 5-10 handwritten notes to leaders and students, letting them know I was thinking about them and praying for them. Often I tried to show my gratitude for what they meant to me and to our ministry.

In my role at FYI, most of my handwritten notes are for our donors—the amazing team of friends of FYI who give to further our mission of equipping teenagers with the lifelong faith they need.

I wish I had read this Harvard Business Review blog post before I wrote all those notes to thank you notes. The author describes three parts of a “Power Thank You” with examples from a business context:

  1. Thank them for something they specifically did that was above the call of duty. For those of us in ministry, it might be the way a volunteer spent extra time with a family that was hurting because of their daughter’s eating disorder.

  1. Acknowledge to them the effort (or personal sacrifice) that they made in doing the above. There was likely a cost to that volunteer’s extra time. Acknowledge it in your thank you.

  1. Tell them what it personally meant to you. At this point, you can explain how what they did contributes to the health and effectiveness of your overall ministry.

These three steps are far better than many of the thank you notes I’ve written in the past, which basically have revolved around a “you’re awesome” theme. That’s not nearly as memorable and powerful as the specific suggestions above.

A few question to help us implement this “thank you” process:

  1. On a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being “fantastic” and 1 being pretty “lame” – how’s that for technical research language?), how well do you do at thanking others?

  2. Who would you like to thank this week?

  3. How can you thank them? Letter? Phone call? E.mail? Small gift?