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Gift Acknowledgements: Nothing Beats a Handwritten Note

Thank You Notes

When it comes to impactful gift acknowledgements, there’s no denying the sizable difference a personal handwritten note can make to any new or renewing donor. The fact is, most handwritten notes are never thrown away!

Thank You NotesJust take a look at a piece of furniture in my office. What you see are various handwritten notes I have received from charities I support over the last 2-3 years – except for the taller one on the right, which is a handwritten and very special Father’s Day card from my oldest granddaughter who is 5 years old!

Notice the staying power of whatever message the sender had for me. The mere fact that the other notes have such an esteemed resting spot near the very special Father’s Day card should be reason enough to consider using this medium.

The Personal Message Multiplies the Staying Power

Are these the only handwritten notes I have received over the last 2-3 years? No. My guess they represent about 10% of the ones mailed to me during that time period.

Why did I keep the eight pictured above? The answer is easy, and parallels the Father’s Day card. Every one of the eight contained the following:

  1. A message that could have only been meant for me
  2. A personal reference or reason about me sharing why the note was written
  3. A genuine focus on me rather than the sender or the sender’s organization

That is why I kept those notes and not the others, and why I have even more in my office at home.

The Personal Message Creates or Strengthens the Relationship

The second half of my reasoning for loving and endorsing the use of personal handwritten notes is the relationship building they inspire. We all know fundraising is based upon relationships, especially as it relates to donor retention. In my opinion, the next best thing to an in-person meeting or a phone call is a handwritten note that carries a personal message.

The personal message, which achieves the three reasons I listed above, allows this medium to transcend any other type of letter or email, and create the relationship bond to the heart and soul of the donor. If handled properly, you are well on your way to a long-term relationship, which is the promised land for all fundraising efforts.

The video clip below that illustrates this aspect so well is taken from a recent speech jointly made the creator of much of the current research on donor retention, Dr. Adrian Sargeant, and myself. In 30 seconds Dr. Sargeant captures the essence of what I am writing here:

If your goal with any thank you letter is to build a tighter relationship then I urge you to employ the personal handwritten note more often.

Try a little segmentation test. Isolate some group of donors you are thanking and try a personal handwritten note to some percentage of the segment. Track in your database which ones you sent the personal handwritten note too and which ones received your regular thank you email or letter. Check back a year later and see which group had a higher retention rate and average gift amount increase. I am betting you will have your proof and change your methods going forward!

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  • Claire Axelrad

    Spot on. I kind of wrote the same message in this post: I channeled Grandma rather than an aunt, but it's the same principle. :-)
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