Start Writing Handwritten Letters
“So good to see you this morning! What an exciting venture to be going out on your own as a freelancer. I can completely understand how brand development when you are starting out can be a scary proposition. I gave it some thought and, considering where trends are leading and how to reach potential clients through noise that only seems to be getting louder, I thought I would offer some thoughts…”
Take a step back. Refocus on tactics long left by the wayside. All you English teachers out there are about to love me: I'm talking about the good, old-fashioned, handwritten letter. Compared with a quick email, handwritten pieces have a personality all their own. The actual handwriting connotes effort and the messaging illustrates an extra level of attention people find refreshing.
I work in fundraising, and my most reliable challenge is ensuring donors feel valued for their gifts while balancing the fact that most nonprofits are vying for their support and attention equally as hard. Standing out isn’t an easy feat—that’s one of the reasons I currently send a handwritten thank-you note for every donation we receive. It allows me to think more deeply about each individual and add a personal touch that’s special to them. Sure, it takes a lot more time than an automated system, but it’s worth it; the ROI for our retention numbers is significant, and anecdotally, we continue to receive feedback from donors about how much they love it.
I do it because it works, but also because it feels good. Recently, I started to think about how that might translate to my personal life. We’ve all heard the advice: send a handwritten note following a job interview, because it makes you stand out. But even beyond professional endeavors, handwritten communications just generally let people know you care.
Around Christmastime last year, I picked seven friends whom I greatly admire. I wrote each one a long, handwritten letter, detailing why I valued our friendship and what about them inspired me. Writing to my friends communicated to them that even if they’re struggling to manage their days or thinking they aren't balancing their workloads way they should, at least one person saw them as strong, bright, motivated and driven. After the holidays, many of them told me it was the nicest thing they had ever received, and that they had desperately needed to hear those words, at that time in their lives. It was the best Christmas gift I ever gave because it was from the heart, and had a lasting power much longer than a candle or a bottle of wine.
Handwritten notes don't have to be full-page letters; they can be short and sweet. The key is to make them meaningful, personal and an expression of your thoughtfulness. Here are three tips to get you started:
1. Pick out a fun stationery—something that fits your personality—or select a bunch of different options and choose the one that best fits the recipient. My best friend has a dachshund, so when I saw a thank-you card with a dachshund holding thank-you balloons, I bought them to keep just for notes to her.
2. Always include a personal quip. Did the individual mention in your meeting about their vacation next week? Do you know they love running or Broadway musicals? Mention it in some way, so it shows you were paying attention.
3. No gesture is ever too small, and people love being praised. Just today, I thanked someone for meeting with me and I thanked the person who introduced us and updated her on the results of the meeting. The results don't affect her in any way, but it made her feel good to know she had a role in a positive outcome.
If you’re a freelancer or a business owner, you’re competing with the Amazons and Walmarts of the world. When cost, expediency and efficiency aren’t enough, personalization, authenticity, showing you care and paying attention go a long way in retaining clients and delighting your customers.
I met with a donor recently who mentioned her daughter loves math, but doesn't like to read. Later that week, I found a book on coding I thought might pique her interest in reading, so I popped it in the mail. Sure, it cost me $6, but I know that donor will never forget the gesture.
And, of course—I included a handwritten note.
Krystina spends her days in donor engagement and communication for a healthcare organization in Baltimore, which she considers the best job in fundraising, and she is also deeply committed to social justice issues in Baltimore City, working to build relationships and make connections that spur change. But her favorite roles are wife and mom. When she is not adventuring with her almost 2-year-old and waiting for No. 2 to appear, she is in perpetual search of a really good cup (read: pot) of coffee or mastering her life goal of crafting the perfect charcuterie board.