Hand Written Notes: What to Write

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Image courtesy of Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net
In my last blog post, I extolled the virtues of handwriting notes. (Click here to read that one) If I convinced you that writing notes is a good idea, you might be wondering “what should I write about?” I’ve got some ideas for you.
Appreciation for volunteering – many of your donors also volunteer for our organizations. Think about board members, event volunteers, program volunteers and all of the other unpaid labor that keep your nonprofit functioning.
Impact of a program a donor supported – because we are there everyday, we sometimes forget about the impact of our organizations, the magic that happens. The next time you see some of that magic, think of the donors whose gifts enabled that to happen. Write them a quick note to tell them about it. Bonus: enclose a picture with the note.
Celebrations – send a note for a donor’s birthday or anniversary. If you know they’ve accomplished something, send them a note of congratulations.
Condolences – if a donor has experienced a loss, send them a card expressing your concern.
Newsletter with a note – the next time your organization is sending a mass mailing newsletter, pull a few key donors off of the list and send theirs first class, in an envelope, with a personal note.
When you haven’t had personal contact in a while – if a donor has been out of touch or hard to reach, send them a quick note and tell them they are appreciated.
Writing notes is habit-forming. Once you get started, it will become more natural. Let me know if I missed any good reasons for a hand written note and I’ll add it to my list.
Happy writing!

How Late is Too Late for a Holiday Message? Part 2

W&M YouTube screen shot
Is an e-mail holiday card the right way to go? My opinion on this is no and yes. Here’s what I mean:

NO – an e-card is not the right means of communication for your top donors and prospects. This group should be receiving a personal (hand-signed, hand-addressed) message from whoever in the organization has the closest relationship.

YES – an e-card is an excellent way to communicate with the larger audience of supporters (annual giving donors, alumni, volunteers). Use photos, artwork and whatever best demonstrates your mission. Use the holidays as a way to communicate with your social media audiences too – post, tweet, and all the other things you are doing.

Because development is about building relationships with individuals one at a time or large groups via mass communication – your message should focus on how the support of your donors changed the lives of your constituents and how much you appreciate them.

The challenge – and this is true with any development communications – is to make it meaningful to the donor and representative of your mission. As with many things, holiday e-cards have become pretty common. You have to make yours stand out. My favorite example of this is an e-card the College of William & Mary sent to donors and alumni a few years ago. They showcased students and used images that were meaningful to their audience. You can see the video portion of the message below.

Don’t let time be your excuse for not communicating with your donors and prospects. As I said in my last blog, it’s never too late. Send an e-card for the new year, Valentine’s Day, the start of a new semester or whatever fits with your organization’s culture and mission.

Why? Your organization’s supporters are like family: they want to see those pictures and hear those stories. Use the holidays to do that.

How Late is Too Late for a Holiday Message? Part 1

Holiday stamps
Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

It’s happened again at my house: the lovely photo cards have arrived in plenty of time to get them out but the busyness of school programs, shopping and family activities have distracted me. My friends and family will tell you that our family card is rarely (OK, maybe never) received before December 25. One year it was mailed around January 4 – ugh! But I always mail them anyway because I’m so proud of my adorable children and know that their aunts and uncles want to see their photos.

So how late is too late for a holiday message from your nonprofit to your donors? NEVER!

A Thanksgiving message would have been great but it’s too late for that in 2015. So instead try a New Year’s card to thank donors for the great 2015 they made possible in the lives of your constituents. If you think mailboxes are too crowded at the end of the year, send a “welcome to 2016” message that arrives around January 4, the first Monday of the new year. A few years ago, one dear friend was running so late with her family Christmas cards that she dressed her kids up in beads and made it a “Happy Gasparilla” card. It’s a Tampa thing and I loved it! It stayed on my refrigerator most of the year. What’s going on in your organization that you can celebrate?

Some of you may be asking, ‘should we even send one?’ I say YES and here’s why: development is about building relationships and sending cards on special occasions is a natural relationship action. What about the idea of offending some of your audience? Don’t! You know your audience; pick a theme and message that reflects your organization and it won’t be offensive. Faith-based organizations have the leg up on this issue. They can celebrate their sacred holidays, but what about the rest of us? Pictures are the best way to communicate what we do so pick one great “money” shot that illustrates what you do and use an online ordering site like Shutterfly or Vista Print. If the card focuses on the good work you are doing, it won’t be offensive.

If I’ve convinced you this is a good idea, your next questions should be ‘who should get them and who should sign them?’ Send them to your board members, top donors, volunteers, vendors who give you generous discounts, and your organization’s friends. They should be hand signed by whoever knows the person best. What do I mean by hand signed? Signed by a human hand with a real pen. If you are sending too many to hand sign, you are sending too many. While you’ve got your pen out, they should be hand addressed. If you are sending too many to hand address, you are sending too many.

Does all of this sound too complicated? Don’t have the time to create a custom card? Then run to a drug store at lunch today, buy a box thank you notes and send them to the 20 most important donors to your organization. Write a note that says something like, “when you made a gift to us earlier this year, you didn’t know who your gift would help. Today I was reminded that it helped someone like…”

Your organization’s supporters are like family: they want to see those pictures and hear those stories. Use the holidays to do that.

Effective Out of Office Messages

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re delighted to have this guest post from our friend and colleague Ashley Pero.

Are you getting ready for some time out of the office?  It is important not to forget to set your out of office email and voicemail messages. You can easily set a task reminder for the day of your departure to pop up in Outlook. And, if you do forget it is worth a trip back to the office (or a quick remote in) to get it set. An effective out of office message can save you time when you get back to the office and also lets people know why they haven’t heard back from you. These people can be coworkers, donors, clients, volunteers or that all important potential donor – you don’t want to leave them thinking you are unresponsive or don’t care.

You can craft an effective out of office message by answering a few simple questions:

  • When will you be out of the office and what day will you return?
  • Will the office be closed during any of the time your away?
  • How can you be contacted (if at all)?
  • Who can they contact while you’re away?

An email out of office example:
Hi! I will be out of the office with no access to email until (day of the week), (month and day). I will respond to all emails upon my return. 

If you require immediate assistance please call our office, (888) 888-8888, and someone will be happy to assist you. 

The office will be closed (dates office will be closed). 

Thank you. 

Your voicemail out of office can be similar, but try and keep it short with just the important information.

  • You could also have limited access to email/voicemail or available only by cell phone – if that is the case let them know how long they should expect a response to take.
  • If there is a particular person they should ask for in your office list that person’s name, email and phone number. If there are certain people for certain issues list them all (being mindful while recording your voicemail out of office).

And one last thing, if you are using Outlook make sure to set both the internal and external message (both tabs). The same message can work, but you customize both depending on your office size and office requirements.

Originally published on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.

4 Steps to Repair a Donor Relationship

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not every repaired donor relationship leads to a 5-figure gift but I know of at least one that did. A colleague listened to the concerns of the donor and worked within the organization to correct the problem. In an effort to reengage this donor, the fundraiser took her to lunch and was presented with a 5-figure gift. How did that happen?

Let’s look at the steps involved in repairing this relationship:

  1. Keeping communication lines open: this can be as simple as continuing to send them stewardship reports, newsletters and other communications. Make sure that you mail often enough to keep their address current. Also, check with people throughout your organization to see who knows an unhappy donor and might be able to help you figure out why.
  2. Listening to their concerns: many times an unhappy donor needs an opportunity to express their feelings to the organization. Listening without becoming defensive is challenging but worth the restraint. Something obviously has gone wrong. Listen with an open mind and find out where the breakdown has happened.
  3. Admitting to mistakes and apologizing: we are not perfect nor are our organizations. Admit the mistake without throwing anyone under the proverbial bus and apologize. Determine if an apology needs to come from someone else in your organization and facilitate that if necessary.
  4. Correcting the mistakes: this can take some time and may seem like a waste of time when there are goals to meet but don’t skip this step. In the case I heard about recently, the correction took months of coordination because it involved several parts of the organization. The development officer forged ahead – never knowing it would result in a gift – because it was the right thing to do. He knew that it was important to the donor.

The final step – and it’s really more of an ongoing process than a step – is to continue to communicate with the donor. There may never be an opportunity to ask for a gift again but you never know…for my friend, he didn’t have to ask. The donor was so pleased that the situation had been corrected that she made an additional gift without being asked.

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.

Don’t Bury the Lead

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I watched as several nonprofits were interviewed on TV recently. As I often do, I passionately expressed my frustration. This is also known as yelling at a TV that can’t hear me (at least that’s what my husband calls it). Why, you ask? I’ll explain.

A reporter started with the question, “what does your organization do?” There it is: the million dollar question, the one we’ve all been dying to answer on television. I experienced great disappointment as the nonprofit’s spokesperson told us how long they’ve been in existence, how many people they work with and that they are a 501(c)3. Finally, she got to the answer: they create jobs. She should have started with that! That’s what they do. That’s how they change the world.

How do you answer that question? You probably don’t have many opportunities to answer it on live TV but how do you answer it on any given day?

Here’s advice the advice I was shouting at my TV: don’t bury the lead! What is your lead? What is it that you really do to change the world? Do you save lives, rescue animals, teach kids to read? Start with that. Figure out how to say it in the most succinct and dramatic way.

Remember that most people aren’t inspired by how long you’ve been around, how many people you serve or the fact that the IRS granted you tax exempt status. What inspires them? How you are changing the world. Be sure that is the first thing you say. I strongly believe the best way to convey how you change the world is by a quick story that illustrates that in a real life.

“Bury the lead” is an expression from journalism. It applies in many situations: copywriting, social media. If you’d like to read more about that, check out this blog post from Socialmediatoday.com, “Keys to Copywriting: Don’t Bury the Lead.”

If you’re not sure if you are able to tell your story this way, practice on the next person who asks about what’s going on in your life. Tell them about the good work of your organization and see how they respond. Then ask them what they think. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.