Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Tales from the Secret Giver #2: Dear Friend… and other stories

Tales from the Secret Giver #2: Dear Friend… and other stories

Much of the feedback we’ve seen since launching our Secret Giver Scheme nearly two years ago, has reinforced just how important some of the absolute basics of building good relationships still are. Very high on the list has been how we address our valued supporters in an appropriate and time-honoured fashion. And while this seems to be almost de rigueur for postal comms, surprisingly it seems that digital is currently lagging (somewhat) behind.

Often, we’ve seen emails that are Dear Jo – only to be signed off by … “Supporter Services Team” or “ABC Charity” or, worst of all, nobody. Call me old-fashioned, but I was taught to put your name at the foot of a letter (and be that letter handwritten or otherwise), is to take ownership of the content of that letter.

Some of our Givers were also left feeling a little irritated by the lackadaisical approach to their email communications – especially if they were reduced to a Dear Friend status when said charity knew their first name, and on previous occasions had happily used it! As far as I know, there is no additional cost for personalisation or consistency on e-comms, just a little more effort with selections.

But back to print again, and let’s give three cheers for Guide Dogs, who, last year, sent out a fantastic appeal that was personalised, localised and hit the mark perfectly in making our Giver feel appreciated and understood. Here the personalisation extended to how many guide dogs were currently needed in their area – and our Giver loved that the appeal was called ‘matchmaker’.

It’s the little things that donors remember, and we as fundraisers should never forget that.

A long history with a charity counts for a lot, so let’s put the extra effort into addressing our ‘friends’ as they would expect – by their first name – and putting a name and a face at the footer, however big or small your charity is. As the saying goes, ‘Make new friends, but don’t forget the old; one is silver, the other is gold.’


Tales from the Secret Giving is a semi-regular column sharing insights, ideas, statistics, feedback and anecdotes from JGA’s Secret Giver scheme – a comprehensive and benchmarking programme for the voluntary sector, tracking and analysing every communication from nearly fifty charities across a wide range of causes.

Find out more about the Secret Giver scheme.


Since 2004, John Grain Associates (JGA) have worked with hundreds of clients to help them raise more money. Specialists in individual giving and supporter care, they are passionate advocates of ethical and transparent relationship fundraising. Over the past 15 years JGA have worked on developing and implementing strategies, generating imaginative and engaging creative content, providing insightful research, offered interim support and mentoring, and delivering a range of bespoke supporter care training programmes.

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