On thanking

Jonathan Waddingham
Products with Purpose
6 min readNov 13, 2014


Earlier in the Summer, we knew we were about to reach our first big Yimby milestone — raising over £1 million. This was pretty exciting for us, and we wanted to find a way to talk about it and do something to celebrate that. The obvious thing was to do some sort of press release (which we did — see coverage here and here), but we also felt that celebrating ourselves was a bit too, well, self-congratulatory and it was our users who were the ones to be celebrated. So we tried to come up with some ideas for doing something a bit different. At that time, my wife (she’s an awesome freelance copywriter at Wise copy) was working for a charity client on re-writing their thank you letters and I was inspired by how much of an emotional reaction I was getting from reading these letters. I hadn’t quite appreciated the stark difference between a well-written thank you letter and a, well, bog standard thank you. So it made me think — given that our users are the ones who raised £1 million, shouldn’t we be thanking them and not ourselves? Wouldn’t it be great to personally write to them, and thank them? I mean, when do you ever receive anything in the post from a website. Let alone a personal, hand written note. (All those fundraising conference sessions on DM have clearly imprinted on my subconscious too). Anyway, we decided it would be a good idea to write to all our successful project creators and thank them. Personally. All 500 odd of them. [Gulp]

How to write a great thank you

I set myself the challenge of writing the thank you letter, and having little experience of this personally, I went to the obvious first place to learn more: sofii.org. In particular, I read through all the before and after examples on the Sample thank-you letters for you to swipe page (why reinvent the wheel eh!) and tried to apply their lessons to the letter I wanted to write. I tried to focus on thinking about how I wanted the recipient to feel — which was gratitude for their efforts. And I mean genuine gratitude: we were genuinely grateful that people had used Yimby to make something good happen and I wanted to express that, and show how they had formed part of a much greater impact than they might have realised.

My thank you letter postcard

I originally wanted to write a letter, but that would have taken way too long, so we decided to send a postcard. The postcard (designed by Kate) was meant to show the range of people using Yimby and reinforce the message of *thanks*. “Thanks a million” was an obvious title to use.

As there’s not much room on a postcard, I had to go through a few iterations to edit the letter down to its core whilst still trying to keep some impact. And here’s what we eventually went with:

Dear [firstname], Because of you, and the efforts of hundreds of other people like you, over £1 million has now been raised to make hundreds of good things happen on Yimby.com. You were one of the first people to use Yimby, and we couldn’t have done it without you — thanks a million. Jonathan, Yimby Product Manager [signed from whichever member of the team wrote it] Ps — You can now find projects near you at Yimby.com

Hopefully it meets and respects the rules of Lisa Sargent on sofii, but I was pretty happy with it. But then came the daunting task of writing about 500 of these -because it *had* to be hand-written to have the effect I wanted. We didn’t quite appreciate at the time that this would take *ages*, despite divvying up the work between the Yimby team (of 4–5 at that time). Not to mention the time of adding first class stamps to each postcard. I mean, we couldn’t go to all that effort to make it personal and then use franking, it just wouldn’t have felt right.

The impact

The goal of this wasn’t to drive visits to the site, get more pages or pledges; it was to create a feeling. Put that in your ROI pipe and smoke it!

We knew Yimby was growing because of word-of-mouth, and that people who’d used the product were telling their friends to use it too. So if people were thanked properly (albeit not timely — that was one thing we couldn’t do as the milestone was about our platform, not their project) they would potentially be warmer to us, and tell more people. And you know what, as we wrote these cards and read the story behind every single project (personalising the copy to them if we could) it became quite an emotionally involved task: I felt every thank you that I wrote. Sincerely felt it. And if I felt it, I was sure the recipient would too.

My ultimate goal would have been if someone stuck up a postcard on their fridge — putting us in the heart of their home — and that everyone who saw that postcard asked about it. Try measuring that digital marketers! Still, we knew that a few people might talk about their card on social, and their reaction would give us a barometer as to whether they appreciated it. In this case, success looked like appreciation. And, as you can see from the tweets, people appreciated it:

(despite me smudging the writing :/)

And there were plenty more tweets too. We decided to not try and have a hashtag to pull the tweets together or have clever bit.ly links on the cards to measure clicks as it wasn’t about that, it would have felt too much like “marketing”. This wasn’t a campaign, it was a thank you. Simple as that.

What did we learn?

  1. People appreciate being thanked (duh)
  2. There’s a knack to writing a good thank you (double duh)
  3. Hand writing thank-yous takes forever. In hindsight we might have printed the copy and hand signed each one instead.
  4. Sometimes you don’t need to worry about measuring the impact: just because you can’t measure something, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing
  5. Websites can do DM too: it outperformed email by a long way in this instance
  6. Doing the obvious thing is obvious. And usually easy. Thinking differently is hard, and following up on that is even harder
  7. Some of our team have terrible handwriting

Thanks for reading ;)

So there you have it. Inspired by a couple of Sophie’s (sofii.org and @sophdea) we thanked a few hundred people for raising over a million pounds on Yimby. And it felt great. For us, and them too. For more on thanking, I would recommend reading this article on How to write a better thank-you letter (and why it matters) (which I annoyingly didn’t find at the time), a new sofii article on Does thanking really work? (bet you can’t guess what the answer is) and a great post from Lisa Clavering on great and not-so-great thanking experiences. Thanks to Jack, Kate, Ben, Jacs, Camilla and Cat for helping to write ALL THE CARDS.

  • update*
  • I forgot to give a mention to two organisations who’d send me great thank-yous recently:

The first is Campaign Bootcamp, who wrote a lovely card based on what I’d been talking about the fundraising workshop I gave there. Ironically, I didn’t even mention thanking in it as the primary goal was to get people to feel confident in asking.

The second is Nordoff-Robins. I did an off-the-cuff fundraiser for them one afternoon, and they were in contact the next day to say thanks. And they sent a card too. Lovely. I only raised £75, yet I’ve never heard from some other charities I’ve fundraised for where I raised significantly more money.



Jonathan Waddingham
Products with Purpose

Freelance product manager/consultant. Ex PM @JustGiving (Crowdfunding, iOS & Android apps). Love food (cheese), puns, presenting, tech for good, social.