That’s true even if you’re communicating with thousands. It should always feel one to one.
That should always be your aim, even if it takes a little more effort.
But when is the last time you really made a personal effort?
OK, my major gifts readers… I know your answer is All. The. Time.
But I’m talking about something that’s become very rare these days. In some ways, more personal than a phone call.
When is the last time you sat down with a pen and paper and sent a donor a note? Not an appeal. Not a receipt.
A note, just to say you appreciate her.
The thing about handwritten notes is that you can’t fake them very well. (We’re all pretty savvy to those attempts.) So something genuine, something actually from one person to you can be really meaningful.
Need an excuse? Not really.
But here are some “reasons” to reach out, personally.
1. Thank you for a gift
At one smaller organization, I committed to writing a personal note to every donor during the last several months of the year.
These were after an “official” thank you letter went out. (And while I rewrote that letter so it felt much more personal and not very official, it was still the letter with tax information.)
No, these notes went out separately. To every donor: $5 or $500.
Yes, my hands got sore. But the responses – phone calls, notes sent back in return, told me what an impact these notes had on donors.
My favorites, as always, were the donors who had sent small amounts. There was often a tinge of concern: “I’m really not the person you should be worrying about. I don’t give much!”
I promise, even that emotional payback made the sore fingers so worth it.
2. To recognize loyalty
If you can track gift anniversaries, this would definitely be a noticeable way to thank loyal donors.
Because nothing says “you matter” like the time and effort it takes to choose a card, write a personal message and mail it.
We all talk these days about donor loyalty. Retention, rightfully, is a key metric – or should be. But a handwritten note puts that metric in human perspective.
I like to thank loyal donors not just after a recent gift, but “just because”. Believe me, donors notice. The message is clear: this organization actually values me and my support for their cause – not just my money.
3. For happy occasions
If you track birthdays or other special days in your database, this is a great opportunity to send a note. I suggest you NOT use an organization-branded card, though. That tends to undercut the personal message you want to send.
You can also celebrate happy occasions connected to your mission with your donors. Just be sure you’re focused on their role – not patting your organization’s back.
4. For sad occasions
Unfortunately, part of our work often means tracking the obituaries in your community. If you recognize a name, take the time to send a note. Yes, they will receive many. But believe me, each one means something at a sad time.
5. Just because
Do you always need a reason? Sometimes, it’s nice to know your support is recognized.
Make the note special
I’ve already mentioned not using organization notecards. I know you want to be sure the donor knows who you are and where you’re from. So slip your business card in. (It will be easier to read than your signature.)
But pick some nice notecards and keep a stock at your desk.
You don’t have to spend lots of money in a paper store. (Though it is fun to shop!) You can find inexpensive boxes of them at places like Target.
And you won’t have to write a novel. A few simple sentences can say a great deal.
Hand-address the envelope. Stamp it if you can, just like you would a note to a friend.
What makes this special for the donor is knowing that someone took the time to personally communicate. Not a mass mailing; something just for me.
Personal attention is powerful stuff! Think about it – this time of year, we hope to get holiday cards. But throughout the year, what’s most of your mail? Advertisements, solicitations, and bills, right?
This is your chance to really make an impression.
So many donors, so little time
Yes, you won’t be able to write notes all day long. You will need to segment and make choices.
So think about:
New donors – because confirming their decision to give was wise is a smart way to aid retention.
Loyal donors – because they’re too often overlooked. Pick a group – 10 years giving, maybe – and target them. (The good news about “just because” thanks is you don’t have to send them all at the same time or on any schedule, really.)
Donors who have made a significantly increased gift – you can bet they know they’ve stepped up – why not let them know you noticed, too?
Condolences, congratulations – keep an eye out, keep your ear to the ground. When you hear something, write something.
You don’t need to be sure you cover every single donor. Because this is an “in addition to” communication, every single note you send is an improvement.
But think about how many donors you could reach if you set aside ten minutes a day and wrote two notes. You probably could do that.
And I’m betting it would be worth it. You’ll be building stronger donor relationships.
And it’s a great practice for you, as well. Take a break to really focus on donors and gratitude.
And connect to them as people.
Photo: Joanna Kosinska