The Art of Thanking Donors

Jan 19, 2018 | by Meagan Hofer

The Art of Thanking Donors

By: David Ibata

John Sebby dabbled in art while in high school, drawing and sketching, but he laid down his paintbrush after he got married and started a family. He'd break out the watercolors once a year to do Christmas cards for relatives, but that was it.

Then, one day at The Salvation Army, inspiration struck.

"I went to a Salvation Army workshop on how important it is to do something meaningful to thank our donors," said Sebby, director of development at the Augusta, Georgia, Area Command. "Without our donors, we couldn't do all that we do. … Whether it's a dollar in the kettle or a large donation, it all adds up to make our work possible."

"It hit me that maybe donors would enjoy my watercolor paintings."

His works were so well-received, he's been painting for donors for the last 20 years.

Original watercolors, executed in pen and ink on 4-by-5-inch cardstock and colored by hand, go to donors of $1,000 or more; and printed cards, to those who give $100 to $999. Sebby sent out more than 100 originals and 900 prints in 2017.

"Donors call and say thank you for the cards," Sebby said. "Some have framed them and have invited me to their homes or offices to see where they've hung them. So it's a way to have more contact and build stronger relationships."

Sebby also has painted watercolor Christmas cards for family members since 1993. In the early years, he'd do a pen-and-ink sketch, hand-color it, and send out signed and numbered copies.

"I did that for 10 years until my Christmas list became so big, it became too time-consuming. Now I make one color print for all my Christmas cards."

Sebby prefers landscapes. He's most fond of a winter scene of an old mill at The Salvation Army's High Peak Camp in Estes, Colorado. Another of his favorites is an Emergency Disaster Services canteen in the field after an Oklahoma tornado.

His most Christmas card depicted something closer to home: the Sacred Heart Cultural Center, down the block from the Army's Center of Hope and homeless shelter in Augusta.

"I'll see a scene that looks good and do a sketch of it. Sometimes, it all comes together very nicely. Other times – as with the Sacred Heart – it may take three or four paintings."

"It's a hobby I enjoy," he said. "Some people have asked me if I'd like to do it professionally, and I tell them no – then, it would be just a job, and that would take all the fun out of it."

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