When work revolves around the generosity of others, I say a lot of thank you's every day. Over time it's easy for these words to become part of the process instead of a true reflection of how grateful I am. When I'm not focused on gratitude, I can start to lose touch with my sense of sincerity even if not my intention.
To combat the disconnection, I find time to unplug from my devices, put pen to paper, and jot a handwritten thank you note. It takes much more time than typing or working from a template. However, I've found that the benefits are worth the extra effort:
- Practicing gratitude & service. When I complete one note and then pull out another blank sheet of paper, I'm forced to reconnect with my message and the recipient. It helps me appreciate the individual. They were willing to take the time and give their resources; the least I can do is spend a few minutes of my time acknowledging how it's helped.
- Understanding our audience. When I'm writing hundreds of letters a year, I start to notice patterns. Analytics and data reports are great tools for this. But it's easy to glaze over the little details. When I write down the addresses by hand, I become conscious of what part of the states I'm frequently sending things to and how often I'm writing letters to the same individuals.
- Recognizing names. There are plenty of donors I never get to meet in person or talk to over the phone before they give. When I do travel and attend events, I'll inevitably introduce myself to someone and immediately remember their name from a letter. I immediately feel a genuine, warm connection. In some ways, I feel like I've already spent time with them.
As much as technology can expedite procedures, I'm there are instances where efficiency doesn't improve the experience. When I work with people, I have to connect and listen. There are no shortcuts or automation when it comes to relationships. Productive days are those when I'm engaging with others — whether in-person, over the phone, or in a letter.
As we scale our donor base, it may be impossible for me to personally write thousands of letters a year and still get around to my other work responsibilities. I don't plan on giving up on my weekly handwritten messages. I hope to spread the practice to our staff and volunteers. It's important to spread the culture of gratitude and let staff know when the inefficient option is the better one.