Fundraising,  Nonprofits

Interview with an Etiquette Coach

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! These words are key to building and maintaining relationships. Most organizations understand their importance, yet struggle with the right way and time to express their gratitude to their employees, volunteers and contributors.

Meet Belinda “Bella” Cermola, Chief Etiquette Officer at Common Ground Etiquette. We asked her to share her expertise with us on the subject.

Why are thank you notes so important to a relationship?

Thank you notes are an important and timeless aspect of business and social etiquette. A thank you note shows the sender values the relationship and wants to remain in the recipient’s mind for future business or collaboration ventures. Thank you notes should be sent as quickly as possible after a meeting or event, while the encounter is still fresh in the recipient’s mind.

When it comes to thanking employees, a handwritten note of appreciation, from the business owner and/or superior, goes a long way in inspiring them. Many times this appreciation is displayed in a pay increase or a bonus. Don’t take me wrong, money is good, but words of praise, are very powerful. They build loyalty, and trust. It is amazing what just a few words can do. Showing employees that you care isn’t just nice — it’s also good for the business.

Under what circumstance should an organization send a thank you note?

A thank you note should be sent anytime there is a need to express appreciation. It is especially important to send one when:

  • Someone outside of the organization has offered their time and advice.
  • An employee has gone above and beyond and done a great job.
  • Someone has volunteered their time for your cause.
  • A donor has made a financial or other contribution to your cause.

Are emailed notes of appreciation acceptable?

It is very confusing in this ever increasing cyber world, to determine whether to send a note of thanks via email or put a handwritten card in the mail.

The short answer is – yes, emails are acceptable.

Keep this in mind –  even though most people have transitioned into the digital world, many still prefer the “very much alive,” “personal,” and “tactile rewarding” handwritten thank you note.

If time is of the essence, email may be the best strategic solution, but bear in mind that a handwritten thank you note is the perfect way to express personal emotion.

Why do so many people shy away from sending a handwritten note?

Many believe that a handwritten thank you note should be longer than a thank you email and are intimidated by this thought. Thank you notes, whether handwritten or sent via email, are done to express appreciation.  Don’t take any shortcuts. You are will always be better off sending a well-written and thoughtful one.

What is the best way for large organizations to thank their supporters?

When it comes to non-profits or other types of organizations that depend on contributions from donors,  it is perfectly acceptable to send a thank you message (along with their receipts) via email. Sending them together ensures that the donor’s effort is not only acknowledged, but appreciated.

When it comes to the volunteers who share their time and talents without compensation, a handwritten thank you note should be sent. It’s key to acknowledge their contributions and let them know they are valued. These handwritten thank you notes are often a  source of encouragement that gives volunteers the drive they need to continue donating their time and efforts.

The writing of business thank-you notes is an etiquette step that is often skipped. Sadly, not every business professional expects or even appreciates a thank-you note, but it is better to err on the side of good manners. In today’s highly competitive business atmosphere, any advantage you achieve is a benefit.


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Belinda Cermola is the Chief Etiquette Officer of Common Ground Etiquette, a global etiquette and protocol firm, with more than fifteen years of experience in business and social etiquette, client relations and personal development training for diverse industries. Belinda is a consummate relationship builder always providing important tips on communication, personal and online branding, professional image, social media and other important skills essential to reach professional and personal success.  She is a certified Etiquette and Protocol Trainer and holds a Bachelors in Business Administration. Belinda can be reached at 703-825-4226 or Belinda@commongroundetiquette.com.


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