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Get Personal to Get Relevant — Your “From” Line & More

by Nancy E. Schwartz, Publisher, GettingAttention.org / President, Nancy Schwartz & Company
This was orginally posted on Nancy Schwartz's Getting Attention Blog.

Don’t be shy! Getting personal in your communications is key to strong relationships with prospects and supporters.

Here’s how to get personal, with techniques that are doable for you no matter what’s on your to-do list. A small effort here, and that’s all it takes, will make a huge difference.

Personal Is  a Two-Way Street

Most nonprofit communicators I know consider getting personal  as a one-way street. Your organization learns all its can about the folks whom you want to act—donate, volunteer, participate, petition or…—and uses those insights to:

  • Personalize communications to bond by integrating the first names of your community members in salutations, subject lines and the like
  • Customize communications to increase relevance  by:
    • Segmenting your list, breaking out members by special interest, wants, previous actions, location or any other combination of selections
    • Using this understanding to deliver focus, content, frequency and tone that fits best with each segment's  profile

Take It One Step Further—Get Personal Personally to Get More Relevant

It's been proven time and time again that sharing some of oneself speeds relationship building.

Think of a recent conversation you had, personal or professional. When you share something of yourself—an experience related to the topic of conversation, or that of a friend or family member,—that strengthens your growing bond. Your conversational partner gets you a bit better, feels special that you shared something personal, and is much more likely to do the same. That's how relationships deepen.

Here are some easy ways to put personal to work in your communications:

  1. Include your name (or your org spokesperson’s name) in your email “from line” when you’re sending bulk emails from your organization. It’s a must for bulk advocacy and fundraising emails, recommended strongly for e-newsletters.

    Just take a look at the examples here. Which approach draws you in more? Name plus org is even better than just a name, which isn't enough context, especially if it's from a celebrity (Ashley Judd, I mean you).

    It’s always good to know that there’s a human being there on the other end, and this simple change will make your emails more recognizable in the daily onslaught. Caveat: Let list members know if you make this change.

  2. And make your name more personal in your own professional email “from line”—make it Kathy Dempsey rather than Dempsey, Kathy or kathy@infolib.org

  3. Be yourself in the tone and style of your writing. You want to ensure it’s a person-to-person communication, rather than institution-to-person.

    Of course, you’ll have to sound like yourself within the framework of your organization’s voice (make sure that’s clearly-defined, shared and practiced organization-wide) for consistency’s sake, but a robust organizational voice enables individual personalities to flourish.

    Here’s a powerfully-crafted email from Becca, an intern at Corporate Accountability International. It sounds genuine, just like I know she does in person even though we’ve never met! That’s what you want to replicate, in your own voice of course.

  4. Share more of yourself in than you currently do, in keeping with the culture of your organization and the preferences of your community. Here are a few ways to do so:

    1. Include a mention of your passions or family in your professional bio, and make sure your colleagues do the same (more on strong organizational bios here).
    2. Feature your photo in your email (like Becca does above—I can't forget this wonderful photo), letter or Facebook page. You plus beneficiaries, volunteers or program participants (with caption) is a refreshing variation.
    3. When you are at a face-to-face event, introduce yourself (no hovering in the back) and follow up on those brief conversations quickly via email. Let blog readers and Facebook likers know your professional travel schedule and plan a casual get-together (go dutch) over a coffee. Face-to-face remains unequaled for strengthening connections.
  5. Close your communications with a memorable goodbye, featuring your signature (a low-res graphic is easy to pull into emails or letters) and a photo where it makes sense. Try it in some emails, it's less of a fit in letters.


Let's get personal. Take as many of these five steps  as you can.

If you get push back from colleagues or leadership, find personal campaigns from organizations competing for the same attention, dollars and time and show them to the dissenters, along with these examples. This approach tends to work wonders!

How are you getting personal? If you're not, what's standing in your way? Please share your story here.

Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing. Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to nonprofit organizations and foundations nationwide. She is the publisher of the Getting Attention e-update and blog. For more nonprofit marketing guidance like this, subscribe to her e-update at http://gettingattention.org/nonprofit-marketing/subscribe-enewsletter.html.

Topics: Strategy Marketing