This is a year that most would not remember as the most significant in history. But it has incredible significance for fundraisers. In 1997 a new technology emerged that changed how fundraisers communicate with donors and constituents.
In 1989, Microsoft invented the first Microsoft Word software that would become the foundation for what is today’s modern Microsoft Office Suite – the most widely used word processing software. It wasn’t until 1995 and 1997 that Microsoft began to really increase functionality of its Word product. Spelling and grammar checks and other features that we take for granted began to debut this year. But one feature above all, would shape fundraising forever and change the relationship we have with donors when we communicate. The dramatic shift was due to a new tool called mail merge.
Mail merge allowed us to personalize our communications to our donors and constituents. For the first time, we could address people by their personal names that we would use in meetings and other in person conversations. We could change gifting amounts, language in letters, and create personalized printing labels all from our computer. This simple tool changed the landscape of how we essentially engage our donors.
So why is it, that after 12+ years, we fail to use this powerful tool?
This year, my colleagues and I at Achieve will help roughly 20 organizations with their end of year campaigns. Personalization is not an option – it is a given. However, I have received already more than 5 solicitations in the mail from organizations asking for my support without any personalization. The dreaded dear friend, supporter, colleague, etc. You name it – it’s there. Everything except my name.
Personalization is a form of connectivity. Technology advances have made it so simple today to do mail merges and create at a minimum this personal communication with our donors. When we go the extra mile of addressing people according to their personal preferences, we begin to move beyond superficial relationships and to deeper engagement.
There are no excuses today. Even if you are a small shop, have no resources, and don’t have the newest computers, I am sure your system has mail merge if you have a computer beyond 1995. So take advantage of this powerful tool invited to help us create better relationships. Don’t slip into the dear friend mode – quite frankly – friends address each other by their first name.