How to Run for Office: Writing Thank You Notes

Your mom made you write these for a reason

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ah, thank you notes. The “burden” of every fun event from childhood. I can’t be the only person who dreaded writing thank you notes as a kid . Why should I have to spend an hour (which seemed like an eternity at 7 years old) writing thank you notes to distant relatives the day after my birthday before I could play with all my new toys?

I’ve thankfully come a long way from 7-year-old me’s perspective on thank you notes. Instead of dreading them, I actually now look forward to them. I’m incredibly glad that I have a reason to write them. And hopefully you are too.

Don’t brush off the importance of thank you notes. As a candidate, you need to show your appreciation for your supporters and volunteers in order to keep them invested in your campaign. (Last week, we talked about the importance of keeping volunteers committed to your campaign — you can read about it here.)

Thank you notes are also a great way to show your supporters where their money is going. People who send you contributions (both monetary and in-kind) are thinking of their donations as investments in your success. You can tell them how their money is going to help your campaign by revealing some of the plans you have to use that money for.

That being said, try to block off a day every week to write them. It helps your positive reputation and keeps your supporters stay supportive of your campaign.

Thank you notes are going to sound different depending on what they’re for. In other words, the way you thank someone for a contribution online is different from how you thank a volunteer for all their hours of work on your campaign.

Email: Electronic thank you notes can be used for online donations, especially if they’re small and under $100 (or whatever your cap is for small donations). Typically, these don’t need to be highly personalized and can fall under a default thank you email you’ve written. However, if someone’s contributed to your campaign more than once, don’t send the same exact email again.

Typed: typed out thank you notes are a great option to send thank you’s to guests who attended an event you hosted and gave you a contribution. You can write the same letter for the 30+ guests who contributed, highlighting the success of the night and how their contribution has gotten you one step closer to winning the campaign. ALWAYS be sure to sign your thank you letters in pen just to add a level of personalization and authentication to the letter. You can also add smaller personalized notes at the bottom of the letter to make it even more personal.

Handwritten: these are the most time consuming and personalized notes. These are generally sent to donors who contribute more than $100 (or whatever your campaign considers to be a big donation), significant in-kind contributions (like bar owners who donated event space to your campaign, caterers who donated food to an event, etc.), and volunteers. These kinds of significant, personal acts require an equally personal thank you. It might sound tedious, but take the time to write these notes yourself. Showing your appreciation will keep them invested in your campaign.

Write a note…it goes a long way!

Write a note…it goes a long way!

Be punctual!

I know how pressed for time a candidate is on the campaign trail, but try to send your thank you notes within a week of the contribution or event. My personal deadline is two weeks after receiving donations. However, it’s always better late than never to send thank you notes. In other words, even if you get don’t get to the thank you notes until a month later, your supporters are still going to appreciate a late note than no note at all.

The language that you use in your thank you notes should focus on the collective support for your campaign. This isn’t a place for you to brag about your individual accomplishments. Instead of saying “I’m going to win this election because of your support”, say “We’re going to win this election because of your support.” Using a universal “we” changes the language so that your supporter feels included in the campaign.

The format of a thank you note is pretty simple:

  1. Start off by thanking them for their support
  2. Tell them how their contribution has helped you get one step closer to success
  3. Include a call to action at the end of the note. Ask them to volunteer, share your campaign status with their friends, keep an eye out for other events you’re hosting, etc.

This is just a rough outline of what a thank you note should look like. For examples of email, handwritten, and typed thank you notes, you can check out our samples here.

Bonus money saver! Don’t stress out over designing campaign letterhead for thank you notes. Cheap stationary from your local Office Depot is perfect for your handwritten notes and simple printer paper with your signature can work for your typed letters.

Don’t overlook the importance of thank you notes. They’re a great source to keep your supporters interested in your campaign . Be sure to take the time out of your week to write them.

Tomorrow, we talk re-rolodexing yourself.

  How to Run for Office
Kelly is the Founder and CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee. He has worked on dozens of campaigns at every level across the country. Kelly's specialty is in new campaign creation, candidate and staff training, and fundraising. In addition to working for 18+ years in Democratic politics, he teaches a class on political campaigns at DePaul University in Chicago, where he lives with his family and dog, a large hungry blue Weimaraner named Jack Bauer. Kelly started his career in 1998 with Rep. Dennis Moore in KS-03. He's an avid basketball and poker player, though never at the same time. His wife would point out that at no time in this biography was he described as "good" at either hobby. That was a conscious decision.