Delight Donors and Volunteers With Hand-Written Thank You Notes

Writing Thank You Notes Takes Goals, a System and Great Stationery

Thank you, red letter day, note with pen
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There seems to be an outburst of appreciation for handwritten notes and postcards right now.

Maybe it's because, as MarketingProfs pointed out, our email inboxes are battlefields, crowded with junk. Or it could be nostalgia for the way we used to be, as Lifehack found when it wrote about the joy of the postcard.

Or maybe we just need to remember again that high tech demands high touch as a counter balance.

We all know we should be writing notes and postcards, especially to our donors, volunteers, and supporters. But it is a habit that we have to practice.

Here are six ways your charity can use handwritten notes or postcards:

  1. Thank a long time donor.

    Handwritten thank you's are particularly nice for existing donors. A loyal donor has seen a lot of your material, and a formal letter at this point might seem like just more of the same. Try using a note just to say, "Thanks, we appreciate all that you do." Or use a handwritten note for a lapsed donor. Just say, "We miss you."

  2. Thank a volunteer.

    Sometimes we take our best volunteers for granted. Try thanking those special people with a handwritten note or postcard at least once a year. You might time it after the volunteer has done something especially nice, but anytime is the best time.

    The Unseminary blog for churches suggests that you might want to write a thank you to the family of a volunteer, thanking them for making it possible for their parent, spouse, or child to volunteer.

    Also, write a handwritten thank you to a few of your "superheroes." Those are the people who consistently talk you up, lead fundraising campaigns on your behalf, and are the first to show up when there is an emergency.

  1. Thank the people who RSVP to your event.

    Send a handwritten note to the individuals who have said they are coming to one of your events. It can serve both as a thank you and a reminder. If there are hundreds of people coming, just pick a few. Simply say, "Thanks for your RSVP to the gala! We're so looking forward to seeing you there."

    Or, thank the people who came to your event. Pick a few supporters who made the event memorable by just being there and say thanks for making it special.

  1. Celebrate milestones.

    Do you make a note of your best donors' anniversaries or birthdays? How about when they retire? Have they gotten a promotion or a new job? Did their child just graduate from high school or college? These are fantastic opportunities to get in touch and show your donors how much you pay attention and care about them.

  2. Thank a business partner or sponsor.

    Who was the point person on that last cause marketing campaign, or who took the lead for that company's event sponsorship? You may have sent a formal letter to the company with the results of your event or campaign, but take an extra few minutes to send a handwritten note to the person who helped the most. It can pave the way for future collaborations.

  3. Thank a reporter or blogger.

    If a journalist has written or blogged about your charity, this is your chance to turn them into a supporter. Send a handwritten note saying thanks. Also, offer to be a source for future articles, and not just about your charity. Journalists always need expert sources on issues. You could be that. But nurture the relationship by saying thanks.

Make writing thank you notes or postcards a habit. It doesn't matter much if you only remember to do it once in a while.

Get in the habit of recognizing "thanking moments" and make it easy to follow through.

Here's what you can do to turn your intention into a habit.

  • Order up some note cards with your logo.

    Make them large enough that you can write a reasonable message, and so they will stand out when arriving in the mail. If you can't order up note cards specific to your organization, here are some that are ready to print out for free or just let them inspire you. 

    Get postcards that have one of your most iconic photos on it. Have several versions of the postcard made up so that you won't be sending the same ones over and over to the same people.

  • Get real stamps, some beautiful ones, and keep them nearby.
    Nothing ruins the effect of your handwritten note more than metered postage on the envelope. Use real stamps and handwrite the address.

    Writing notes is hard work, I know. We don't even like to write checks anymore. It's just so tedious. But it's important to get this right. So, don't try to do too many handwritten thank you notes at a time. Willpower has its limits.

  • Collect physical addresses, not just emails of your contacts.

    We don't do that so much anymore. We have phone numbers and email addresses but forget about physical ones. Your donor and volunteer databases will have them for the people closest to your charity, but don't forget them for people farther afield. Try to get into the habit of collecting them for most people. 

  • Set specific goals. 
    For instance, write one thank you per a day or three a week. The actual frequency is less important than that you set a  goal for yourself. At the end of the day or week, ask yourself about the notes you've written.

    Become a role model for the rest of your staff by letting them know that you are writing notes and encourage them to do so as well. Or work out an office-wide system to make sure that notes go out to many of your constituents from a variety of people.

  • Enlist board members, volunteers and the people your charity helps to write notes.

    Writing thank you notes to donors is an excellent way to get board members engaged in fundraising. And most volunteers love writing thank you notes. Have a thanking party where they can get together and write them. That works especially well around the holidays or right after the first of the year.

    And there's nothing that can match a handwritten thank you from one of your charity's clients. Children's drawings with a thank you are powerful. One Habitat for Humanity chapter asks its new homeowners to write to donors about how much their home means to them. DonorsChoose has teachers who receive help send a thank you note to donors, plus photos of the children in that classroom. 

  • Include a thanking component in everything you do.
    After events, after fundraising campaigns, as a follow up to grants both requested and received. Watch for announcements of promotions, retirements, and marriages. These all make wonderful thanking or congratulating opportunities.

How do you use handwritten notes or postcards? How often? To whom?