Post-it® | Donor-centered lift notes for the small shop

September 11, 2011

I can still recall my delight years ago when a new colleague gave me a beautiful handmade birthday card.

On the back she had designed her own logo, framed with the words “because Hallmark doesn’t know how nice you are.”

I kept that card for years.

The personal touch can set your organization’s appeal letters apart too.

Woman with many reminder notes and pen in the mouth

Woman with many reminder notes and pen in the mouth

You’re familiar with lift notes, those extra pieces of paper slipped into a direct mail package to ‘lift’ response?  Lift notes used to considerably boost response to direct mail pieces.  Donors may be more savvy these days but they’ll still respond to the personal touch.

So how can the small shop fundraiser personalize the “lift note?”

As you segment your organization’s database for your direct mail appeal, began polling your board members and volunteers for possible connections with donors.  Schedule appointments in advance for them to come in to write personal sticky notes for those donors they have a personal connection with. Spend a little extra time with your major donors.

I’ve used this tactic in more than one small shop.  It works.  And it’s a win-win for donors and board members alike.  Just make sure that you begin planning well in advance, at least four to six weeks before your scheduled mailing date.

Post-it notes make terrific additions to your thank you letters as well, giving the opportunity to write a little something extra.

Remember to go big.  Go bold.

Think of going with over-sized Post-it® notes in neon colors.  Using brightly colored ink.

And watch your response rate soar.

Want more tips on ramping up your next direct mail appeal?  Simple Development Systems is “packed with easy, high-impact action steps from Pam, and an amazing amount of valuable content and links from experts like Tom Ahern, Ken Burnett and Jules Brown.”  Even better?  It’s on sale now!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirsten Bullock, Fundraising Coach September 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm

What a great idea! Donors are much more savvy these days – so a handwritten note, short as it is, can speak volumes. It certainly takes standard handwritten PS to a higher level.

Karen Zapp, copywriter September 13, 2011 at 10:18 am

Hi Pamela,

I’m definitely in agreement with you on this strategy. Nicely done.

Associations can also use this. I suggested this to a client of mine a few years ago and it helped their direct mail campaign. They were able to get board members to write the notes which were added to the letters. It works.

– Karen

Pamela Grow September 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

Absolutely! And it’s yet another wonderful tool for engagement for your board. Board members tend to get put off by the idea of “fundraising.” When you engage them through a series of baby steps (another favorite is to do board “thank–a-thons” – 15 minutes of handwritten thank you notes during board meetings), they realize what a fun process it can be! Thanks for commenting.

Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE September 13, 2011 at 11:46 am

And there is research to back this up! According to Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, which I’ve just been reading, adding a handwritten sticky note asking people to send back a survey doubled response.

Sherry Truhlar September 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Pamela, I am a self-professed techie junkie. I love technology and learning it and applying it to my life. All that said, you are dead-on with hand-written notes. That personal touch does make everyone take note (pun intended) of the letter.

Thanks for sharing a great idea, but thanks for adding the practicalities of implementing. I too often see clients trying to execute an idea without giving thought to what a realistic timeline should be.

Pamela Grow September 14, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Thanks for commenting Sherry! You’re right. You do need to do a bit of advance planning with this. I’ve worked in more than one office where I came on board to the “we needed our appeal letter to go out yesterday!”

Dan Blakemore September 15, 2011 at 9:04 am

I was just thinking about something like this for appeals that I have coming up! Thanks for sharing this great idea.

Karen Luttrell September 15, 2011 at 9:53 am

Hi Pamela,

Great idea! I’ve also seen small-shop fundraisers have contacts hand write a short note directly on the last page of the letter near the bottom, with good results. But the key is definitely to make sure the note is, as you say, truly handwritten and personal. I’ve received mailings in which organizations tried to mass-produce the same effect with pre-printed stickies meant to look like handwriting. To me that screams “fake” and actually decreases trust. So when you give this great idea a try, don’t try short cuts. Take the extra to time to actually personalize your notes and do it well. 🙂

Pamela Grow September 15, 2011 at 9:58 am

Well said Karen – thanks for commenting! There are instances where the small shop actually has an advantage and one is the ability to build a deeper relationship w/ donors.

Laurie Johnson September 15, 2011 at 11:34 am

I too love this idea. I especially appreciate that you included a way for small shops to customize. I think donors are pretty savvy these days and appreciate the hand-written touch versus the printed post-it lift appeal. I will pass this along to my clients, most of whom are smaller in size but largest in heart. They will love this idea! And I have a stack of neon post-its to share with our next campaign!

Beth Ann Locke September 19, 2011 at 11:46 pm


We used to segment our mailings and have the donors we thought were good for a move-up, multiple gifts per year, or just plain higher-end, etc. and put them aside for a personal note – and then make it personal. Sometimes we knew something about the donors simply by name and other times we reviewed their history… the thing is, when you get started, the joy of their support makes notes easy to make. I would write them or make prompt notes for our ED/President. Personal is absolutely key, as several mentioned above. Thanks for sharing!


Xan from Juno February 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

I love using post-its for this purpose–no way a donor can think “oh this is just another form letter” if there’s a note from a friend on the first page.

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