11/23/2014 04:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Tell a Transportable Story in a Thank You Card

A transportable story is one where you make it a no-brainer for the recipient of your story to pass it along to one or more people.

A transportable story will have the following elements at a minimum:

1. Compelling idea/cause:

A underlying compelling idea or a cause will lay the foundation for any story to spread. On one end of the spectrum is spam-like content and rarely anybody wants to spread the story and the other end of the spectrum is a compelling idea or a cause that the recipient can relate to emotionally - THAT the recipient will be proud to spread and share.

2. An element of surprise:

An element of surprise not only catches attention but the concept of novelty or uniqueness makes it a cool story to share.

3. Readiness to Share:

You need to make it convenient for people to share the story. It is easier to do in the digital media - a set of social share buttons will do the trick. When things are offline, it would take a bit more creativity.

A Thank You Card Project

I have been a volunteer for the Sankara Eye Foundation for years. Sankara's focus has been performing free eye surgeries. To this date, the organization has performed over 1.2M free eye surgeries. It's a compelling story right there.

Every thanksgiving holidays we send out a thank you card for over 50,000 donors and along with the thank you card we place a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the patrons to send any donations. There are thousands of people who wait for this package to make their annual donations. In that sense, it's one of our biggest fundraising campaigns (outside of the events) we conduct every year.

Our cards were reasonably well-designed and we told good stories in a single thank you card but we had never told a transportable story in any instance.

This time we wanted to make an attempt to tell a transportable story that our patrons will share it with people they respect. If we are partially successful, this would raise the awareness of the organization with a few more potential donors extending the reach of the organization.

The Approach and the Design

We partnered with a design agency called More Simple to design the card. The approach was to design a 4-page thank you card with to thank the donor. The bottom half of the card would be detachable and it would become a thank you postcard (licensed via Thoughtful Cards) that the donor could send to someone that helped the donor in a significant way. In essence, the four-page thank you card had a free prize - a thank you post card that was reusable. The thank you post card was the transportable part of the story.

Here are the four pages of the final card

Page 1: Thank You + Social Proof

The first page was all about thanking the donor and also include the quick fact that the donor had played a significant part in achieving the massive number (1.2M to be precise) of free surgeries. Stating the number would quickly act as a social proof too.


Page 2: Call to Action

For the upcoming Rajasthan Hospital, an anonymous donor had promised to match up to $1M as long as the donations were collected before the end of the year. The call-to-action specifically used that information to show that the donor could double their impact by donating now.

At the bottom of the card, there was a lead-in to the transportable story that explained the second call-to-action related to the detachable thank you post card.


Page 3: Transportable Story

This was the card where there was a compelling message that would tempt the donor to send it to THAT person that opened up a world of new possibilities to the donor.


Page 4: Personal Message and Postal Information

The last page was the back part of the detachable thank you post card. This not only included the postal information (address of the recipient) but also a place for the donor to write a personal note.


The Additional Benefit:

While the transportable story will bring the additional reach and exposure for the organization, there is an equally compelling additional benefit by using such a design. Based on our past experience, we have found that a really well-designed card will act as an adjacent social object - meaning a topic of conversation between the donors (recipients of the card) and their friends and colleagues.

So, as Jim Rohn says, "every disciplined effort has multiple rewards."

Question for you:
What kind of a transportable story can you create for your own business to gain more exposure and expand your reach?

Note: The form factor for a Thank You card presents several constraints and those constraints can create roadblocks. Or, those constraints can act as blessings because creativity thrives in the face of constraints. If you want to read about a previous thank you card project and the story we told then, you can read here (socially shared over 2,000 times so far).