Effective, personal communication is a critical aspect of any career. This is certainly true in fundraising. As technology grows, the quantity of communication going on—cell phones, e-mail, laptops, personal data assistants—keeps going up. Quantity is certainly important, as the wider our network of friends the more we can do to help our organization. There is no substitute, however, for quality. Communicating with someone is not just a matter of completing the task. We should take pride in using the most personal methods available to us.

Think for a moment about the last handwritten note you received from someone acknowledging a gift or a favor. Remember how you felt when you received this note. You probably thought to yourself “Isn’t that a nice gesture for someone who took the time to write to me?” You can tell almost without opening the envelope that this is not a mass-produced, form letter. This is real mail; this is correspondence.

Never underestimate the value of this gesture. It demonstrates kindness, professionalism, and the personal satisfaction that you extended yourself to someone else in an appropriate manner. We all love to receive envelopes containing notes and celebration cards; not just bills.

You should also package the letter in such a way as to enhance the personal nature of the communication, not diminish it. Remember to place a stamp (a real stamp) on the envelope. It’s more personal and people do notice. Also make sure that you hand address the envelope and return information.

Of course, quantity is an important consideration in the correspondence we send. There is no denying that technology is a powerful tool that allows us to communicate with more people, more often. When you are sending a computer-generated letter, take some steps to give it an added touch of personalization. After the letter is printed and signed, add a few handwritten words on the bottom of the page. It can be something as simple as, “Great to see you at the AFP meeting last week.” It suggests to the recipient that you went a step further than necessary to make this communication personal.

As fundraisers, we constantly work with people who make sacrifices when we ask them for their help. While we cannot offer them something tangible in return for their gift, we can give them something even more valuable. We can give them a few minutes of our time by writing out a heart-felt note. They will recognize that gift and appreciate it a great deal.

You can’t be any more personalized and professional than by sending handwritten notes to your leadership committee, prospects and anyone who can assist you with your fundraising endeavors. I know it takes time but, in reality, it only takes a very few minutes and you’ll reap rewards beyond your wildest dreams. Many fundraisers talk about this, but only a few take the time to routinely write handwritten notes to prospects and those who have or who could be helpful to your campaign. You will get more “thank you” acknowledgements for your thank you notes than you can imagine. Try it—You’ll like it! Wishing you all “Good Writing!”


Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is one of the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada.  If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to info@cdsfunds.com.