Handwritten letters … Simple yet powerful

thank you noteI am a member of Gen-X, and I behave like a typical person of that generation especially when it comes to my mailbox. I hate going to the mailbox. I hate opening mail because 99.9% of it is junk. Anything important comes to me via email, and all of my bills and charitable giving is set-up using automatic bill pay. So, imagine my surprise the other day when I was opening a three-week stack of mail, and I came across a handwritten envelope from one of my favorite local charities.
Inside of the hand addressed envelope was a simple thank you card with a handwritten message that said (and yes I am changing some of the wording to protect the innocent):

Thank you for your support of XYZ Agency in recent years. With your help, we continue to expand our reach and now serve more than 350 kids on a typical school day.
Jane Doe
Board Member

Two simple sentences, but they pack a powerful punch. This simple handwritten note was not in response to a recent contribution. It was out of the blue and unexpected. The reason this simple acknowledgement is so powerful is because:

  • it acknowledged my lifetime giving
  • it sent a clear message this agency appreciates my consistent and loyal support (because this was about my overall giving and not a specific gift)
  • they tied my giving to their success
  • they shared a data point that implies they are doing good things

Handwritten notes from non-profit organizations are rare.
According to Penelope Burk, who is the President at Cynus Applied Research and author of Donor Centered Fundraising, non-profit organizations use handwritten notes when they want to “maintain close ties with a donor“. On page 47 of her book, Penelope shares with her readers that her research indicates non-profits use handwritten than you letters when:

  • the donor is well-known to the writer (70% of respondents)
  • the gift is of exceptional value (68%)
  • the donor is also a leadership volunteer (42%)
  • the donor has been giving for a long time (39%)
  • the donor is prominent in the community (30%)

It is a funny thing because I recently started thinking that I should re-evaluate my charitable giving to this organization. The reason is because:

  1. I like to see and hear about what my charitable giving is doing.
  2. I like to see and hear about the outcomes and impact my charitable giving is helping accomplish.

The truth of the matter is that these needs haven’t been met recently (by this I mean in the last 12 to 18 months), but I have to admit a simple handwritten note has put all of that on hold.
Simply put, a note like this communicates a special relationship. When I look at my charitable giving portfolio, this letter reminds me that this agency is one of my top three “charities of choice“. A decision to change my giving pattern, especially when it comes to them, isn’t a decision that can be or should be made rashly or overnight.
Wow! Who knew that a handwritten note — two simple sentences — could be so impactful and do so much good?
How does your non-profit organization use handwritten notes? Is it a strategy that is part of a bigger stewardship plan? Do you have any success stories that you’d like to share that involve the power of a handwritten note? By the way, Penelope Burk has a whale of a success story that she shares on page 47 of her book. If you don’t have a copy of this book yet, you really need to go to Amazon.com and purchase one.
Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

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