July 22, 2011

A Children's Charity Keeps Its Thank You Brief

Gratitude cannot be measured in word count.

At least that's part of the philosophy of Thompson Child & Family Focus, a 125-year-old charity in North Carolina.

"Expressing gratitude doesn't have to drag on and on," says Shannon Hinson, the organization's director of individual giving. "The point of this is not necessarily to educate people: You can, but the point of this is to say, 'Thank you.'"

The charity's 163-word letter is simple, she says. Thompson operates 13 programs and in 2010 served more than 12,000 children with a variety of needs. Because the charity offers so many services, Ms. Hinson says, she wanted to keep the message as clear as "You are changing lives!"

More than half of the letter is taken up by quotes from parents, children, and staff members. Because the organization works with young people, it uses the quotes to share "daily victories" without identifying anyone it serves.

"We can't show the faces of a lot of the children we serve, but I think there is a way to share a part of them and their appreciation," Ms. Hinson said. "They know that there are people out there helping them, and they are very gracious. They want to be a part of us showing that gratitude to others."

This letter is part of the Great Acknowledgment Swap, a collection of letters gathered by Lynne Wester, director of stewardship and donor recognition at Yeshiva University and blogger at You can see the full collection of more than 600 pagesĀ on her site.

As always, we invite you to critique the letters and borrow ideas for your own acknowledgments.