Fanmail Friday: Getting Attention With Custom Letters

Every day at Postalgia, we help clients engage their target audience by creating handwritten, personalized letters at scale. We have a fundamental belief that to stand out from the steady stream of impersonal digital correspondence, nothing beats a handwritten letter mailed in an envelope.

But we also like to have fun. So when our rockstar social media manager EmMa came up with a brilliant idea to do both, we knew it was worth doing.

Enter Fan Mail Fridays.

The concept was fairly simple: one of our Postalgia team members would choose a celebrity they admire, then write a letter to them telling them why. After the team member dictated the letter, we would then use our proprietary technology to write out a handwritten letter to that celebrity.

As the name suggests, every Friday EmMa creates a short video about the letter, including an interview with the team member. We would then post the video to our social media channels, tagging the celebrity in the process.

The results were amazing. Not only did our followers enjoy the videos, the the famous recipients took notice of our team’s fanmail.

The former captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Darcy Tucker, responded to Leor’s letter about how he loved watching Tucker play by sharing the letter on his Instagram story feed:


A letter from one of our amazing software developers, Chris, was liked by GRAMMY-nominated electronic music producer Haywyre:


Motivational speaker Spencer West responded with a comment to our teammate Stuti’s letter of appreciation to Mr. West:


And Kim’s Convenience star (and X-Wing pilot) Paul Sun-Hyung Lee liked Abbie’s letter thanking him for being an inspiration and a role model. Mr. Lee also took the time to comment back:


Despite being constantly tagged by fans every day, many of the celebrities that received these letters took the time to respond.

Why? Because handwritten letters get noticed. We see it time and again with our non-profit, small business and charitable clients. In a crowded field of impersonal electronic messages, a handwritten letter stands out.

Handwritten letters may take a little more planning and effort (less so when you have robots helping you), but the upside is huge.
Our FanMail Friday is just one example. Imagine what impact you can have on your audience.

Want to level up your direct mail? Contact us.

Why Donors Stop Donating

Donors are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization, and their value cannot be overstated – but it can be calculated.

Many fundraising and nonprofit professionals like to think that their job is different and distinct from that of people who work in sales and marketing – and in some ways it is – but the truth is that like any other business, your non-profit cannot survive without its customers: your donors.

And just like any other business, your average donor’s lifetime value can be calculated: How much do the average donor donates to your organization, multiplied by your organization’s average retention rate. For example, if your donors donate an average of $800, but you lost 70% of your donors every year, you’ve got a problem.

For more on donor retention, and why it’s important, check out our posts about what retention is, why it’s more important than donor acquisition, and how to improve it.

The key to increasing donor retention, however, is first and foremost to understand why your donors are leaving.

Donors stop donating to charitable causes for all sorts of reasons, from a change in their employment status to a change of their zip code, but many of the most common reasons are within your control.

Donors stop donating when they lose confidence in the organization. Most often, when they’re left unengaged, they don’t feel that they are familiar with the names and faces in charge of the causes to which they give. People buy from people, and donors are no exception.

Donors also end their charitable gifts when they feel that the organization doesn’t need them any more. Check out this post about how forgetting to say “thank you” can lead donors to believe that they’re an unimportant or insignificant part of your donor base – just another face in the crowd – and therefore they should probably give their gift to a cause that needs them more.

You may also find that your donors are no longer donating because the cause is no longer personal for them. Perhaps they were once touched by a campaign or project that you were undertaking, but now they feel that your organizational priorities have since shifted. It is on you to make sure that you know your donors, know what is important to them, and make sure that they continue to feel connected to the work that you’re doing. Have a quick look here at how personal and specific thank-you cards go a lot farther than form letters or template emails.

Finally, donors may simply forget about you: It seems hard to envision, since you wake up in the morning, drive to your office, spend all day thinking about your charity or foundation, spend your evenings and weekends at events and galas for your charity and foundation, and never really stop thinking about how to make an impact, but if you don’t make an effort to keep your organization top-of-mind for your donors, they can easily forget to renew their pledge. That’s why a handwritten note of gratitude, or a personalized engagement letter can go a long, long way.

It may seem painful, with such tight budgets, to invest in donor engagement and retention – after all, acquisition is the sexy step-sister of donor stewardship; but what good are one-time donations if you’re trying to build a sustainable organization that can continue to do good in the world. You need your donors to donate more and more, again and again, and to tell their friends as well (feel free to peruse this nifty post about how to drive referrals).

If it seems painful for you to spend on engaging, thanking, and retaining your donors, imagine how painful it is for them to find room in their budgets to donate to your organization; everyone knows that when the economy takes a downturn, charitable giving takes the first and biggest hit.

To build a strong, sustainable fundraising machine that can survive any economic condition, just remember why donors leave in the first place:

  • They lose confidence in the organization, because they no longer feel connected to the management team, or the individuals who brought them through the door in the first place.
  • They feel the foundation, charity, or NFP doesn’t need them any more, and redirect their dollars to a cause that does.
  • They lose their personal connection to the cause; fundraisers don’t know them as anything more than a name on a call list, or a dollar amount, and so they don’t know how to nurture that connection. The personal touch is missing.
  • They simply forget about the organization, or forget to renew their pledge, and no amount of emails that go straight to their spam filter is going to remind them.

Knowing why your donors leave is a great first step towards ensuring that they never do. Great fundraisers understand that donor retention is within their control, if they’re willing to spend the time, money, and effort to manage relationships and engage their donors.

Want to level up your direct mail? Contact us.

Why Thanking Your Donors is So Important

I am always shocked to hear non-profit professionals tell me that they don’t thank their donors. The logic goes that people open their hearts and wallets to charities and non-profits because they want to help a good cause, and doing so is enough reward in and of itself.

While it’s true that selflessness and a drive to better the world is the primary motivator of many gifts, fundraising professionals who take that approach will notice their donor base dwindling, and the size of donations decreasing year over year.

The simple truth is that donor dollars are as valuable to them as they are to you, and while fundraisers may mistakenly think that donors will continue to donate as their default action, the opposite is actually true – especially in bad times.

Thanking donors is one of the easiest methods of donor retention, for a few very simple reasons:

First of all, human nature drives a lot of charitable and philanthropic activity. Donors may have selfless intentions when they make their original donations, but like any other human beings, they crave the feeling of social belonging, which is triggered by recognition.

You would be amazed how many fundraisers immediately recognize the value of putting together elaborate gala dinners to honor donors, or putting their names on billboards and buildings as an incentive to inspire their donations, but fail to recognize the same behaviors at play with a simple, $2 handwritten thank-you card.

Another benefit of thanking donors is staying top of mind. Any number of events or thoughts may have triggered their first donation to your organization – maybe they saw an effective piece of marketing material, heard about you from a friend, or were personally touched by the cause that you raise money for in the time leading up to their first donation.

What will trigger their second donation? Their third? Their ninth consecutive donation? A thank-you note makes its recipient feel good, and the more well-conceived and executed the thank-you, the more that feeling lasts. A lasting feeling of goodwill is a great way to stay top of mind next Christmas, tax season, or whenever your donors decide if and where to direct their charitable dollars.

Fundraisers should also be aware that donors tend to link an organization’s ability to keep in touch with that organization’s need for donations.

Donors may say to themselves, “if they’re not keeping in touch with me, acknowledging me, or thanking me, it’s probably because they have so many other donors to keep in touch with, to acknowledge, and to thank.” and then they may ask themselves, “if they have so many other donors, do they really need me?”

If you don’t thank your donors – if you treat them as unimportant – they will assume that they are not needed. They will direct their dollars to an organization that needs them more, not out of a selfish need to be recognized, but out of a selfless desire to have an impact where they are needed.

Finally, thank you notes are a great way to remind your donors that there are real people, and not a faceless organization, at the other end of their donation.

Donors who are never thanked have no way of knowing that their donation was received and put to good use. They throw their dollars into the abyss, and are lucky if they receive a black and white, barcoded tax receipt in a windowed envelope a year later – or worse: they hear nothing from you until you ask them for money again and again.

Thanking donors is one of the most important functions of a fundraiser – consider it a choice between saying “thank you” to your donors, or saying “goodbye” to them. It should be one of the easiest things to justify to the rest of the organization, but in case it isn’t, gently remind them of these key takeaways:

  • Saying thank you lets donors know that they are donating to real people, and not faceless organizations – a key ingredient in letting them feel that their money is put to good use.
  • Saying thank you lets your donors know that each of them is important to you, which makes them feel that your organization needs them, and doesn’t take them for granted.
  • Saying thank you in a powerful and personal way – like a handwritten note of gratitude – helps trigger long-lasting feelings of joy and goodwill, which keeps your organization top of your donor’s mind
  • Saying thank you appeals to human nature – people crave feelings of social belonging, and recognition and expressions of gratitude help them achieve those feelings

Want to level up your direct mail? Contact us.