Institute for Charitable Giving

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Hand-Written Notes Are a Rare Commodity

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Recently, I stopped by FedEx to pick up a Pak to send some items to Olivia and Grant my 15 and 11 year old grandkids. As I was stopped in traffic, several memories and ideas helped me pass the twenty minutes or so before traffic resumed moving.

Over my nearly thirty years with Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, I received a FedEx Pak virtually every Saturday from Jerry. He collected items of interest, memos, copies of proposals, and so forth and overnighted them to members of the senior staff. Most required some action or response. The balance was information, ideas, or fundraising tips.

It was in such a Pak that I received a copy of Ben Case’s newsletter. It was called “Tip O’ the Morning.” Ben is the Chief Executive, Focused on Fundraising. He is one of the stars in our business, and author of “21 Tips for Highly Successful Fundraisers.”

This newsletter featured a piece written by John Coleman for the Harvard Business Review. It is titled: “Handwritten Notes Are a Rare Commodity: They’re More ImportantThan Ever…”. Jerry wrote across the top: “Jerry, you and I already know this.” Indeed.

Jerry and I lamented often over coffee about the elimination of cursive writing and how “handwritten notes” are a vanishing art. Jerry likely sent at least 100 personal notes each week. My goal was 35 each week. Of course, we were helped by being on airplane flights and dinners alone. But, the greatest advantage we had was we enjoyed it!

This brings me to the idea from the traffic stop. Our grandkids live in the Kansas City, MO metro area. Their schools do not teach cursive. While these two young people are my IT consultants, they had never sent me a personal note. They printed their name on the Christmas Card, but nothing personal.

During a visit, I proposed the following: If each of you send me a personal note each month, I will respond with a note containing between $5 – $10 for each note. It must be handwritten and can be on any kind of paper. It can be on any subject you choose. It must be at least one paragraph with a minimum of five sentences.

I added if you do one each month for the year, you could receive between $60-$120, plus a bonus that will double what you earned during the year.

To further encourage them, I provided note cards and stamps. I cannot declare a victory as it is still a work in progress, but the prospects of me having to pay top dollar seems remote. I pray they will begin to appreciate the value and impact of a thoughtful, handwritten note— just like all you who may be reading this.

John Coleman in his paper stresses several important, unique characteristics of personal, handwritten notes. Read his article here.

1. “Handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Email, tweets, texts are essentially costless. They’re easy to write and free to send and you and I produce hundreds of them each day…Drafting (a note) involves selecting stationary, paying for stamps and visiting a mailbox. They indicate investment and that very costliness indicates value.”

2. “While saying ‘thank you’ is important, the beauty of a well-crafted handwritten note is that it can show deeper investment and appreciation than a simple thank-you can…”

3. As an added bonus, studies show that those who express gratitude also benefit by experiencing better health, sleep, less anxiety and more life satisfaction. They benefit the giver and receiver alike.”

Mr. Coleman makes a final intrinsic point: “…handwritten notes have a permanence… How many shoe boxes with old letters or short notes from former colleagues, friends…? Well, you get the point.

Oh, and the last advice to my grandkids was to explain the cultivation process and how we work to build relationships with our donors to move them from annual donors to the ultimate gift in support of our mission. I emphasized the process includes many personal notes—especially before Christmas and birthdays. Okay, that was unfair, but handwritten personal notes are so important, I thought what is a little stretching of the scenario among family and friends!

Finally, I am grateful for all the personal notes Jerry Panas sent me. Each time I find one in my “Rainy Day File” is a reminder of the greatness of the man and what a special friend and mentor he was!

– Jerry A. Linzy
Executive Partner, Emeritus
Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners


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