Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It Is What It Is, Or Is It?

The harvest is pretty straightforward.

On Day One of my Minden residency, way back in September, I described how I scan each letter so that I can clip portions to populate the categories: To; From; Salutations; In Closing; Postscripts; XO; Home; Bearings; The Way She Wrote Her M's.  

Determining a category for the body of a letter is where the fun begins.

Sometimes I nail it on first read and can fast track the letter to my ‘to scan’ pile without a label, confident I’ll be able to draw the same conclusion when it's time to file. If nothing comes to me right away I give it more time while I’m scanning.  Each letter gets at least two reads. The tricky ones get three, sometimes four— in a way I’m glad of the opportunity they provide to match the intellectual and emotional investment of writing a letter.

In truth I love it when I’m stumped and the mental gymnastics begin. ‘Sleeping on it’ often brings clarity. You may recall a moving letter I read this summer recounting a traveller’s reaction to a tour of the caves where the Khmer Rouge killed Cambodian peasants. At the end of Day Eight of the Picton residency I filed the letter under Travails. By the time I returned the next morning the tone of the writer’s respect for  “the resiliency of Cambodian people, their ability to live through the horror, and their determination and optimism as they work to make it better for the next generation” had sunk in. I shifted the letter to Hope.

The letters from the hatbox required more time and space. I mulled them over in both Picton and Minden before I finally settled on Adult Non Fiction as the name.

I don’t usually read or sort letters between residencies, but in preparation for my next at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Congress in Toronto this month I’m diving back in. 

Why?  There are over 1,000 people attending the Congress and I’ve got only two days to make an impact.

One of the companies attending the AFP Congress has commissioned me to join them in their booth on the Exhibitors floor. It’s a good fit all around.

Prime Data is a communications company that finds innovative ways to help businesses reach a target audience. They are helping me to reach a new one; together we hope to ignite the imaginations of the delegates attending the Congress. After all the power of the written word plays a huge part in fundraising.

Playful as they are, I like the parallels between my endless sorting and filing, and the data analytics work Prime Data does. And I love the idea of people finding art in unexpected places! 

What donor relations and stewardship knowhow can be gleaned from mining Please or Hope or Thanks? What evidence of the rules of writing a good thank you note (be generous, specific, prompt, succinct and personal) will I find? More importantly, how far can they reach?

There was a timely headline to a feature on philanthropy in the Globe and Mail this past weekend:

To save lives, fund a hospital. To transform them support an artist.”  

Thanks Prime Data—Let’s see what we can do!

P.S. While you are waiting for the next residency and flurry of blog activity, why not read up on categories?

1.     Salutations: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
2.     In Closing: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
3.     Postscripts: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
4.     The Big News:
5.     The Small News: See Toronto Oct 18/10
6.     The Juicy News:
7.     Firm Ground: See Day 6 Toronto (Oct/10 ; Day 3&4 Picton (Aug/11)
8.     Shaky Ground: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
9.     Best Friends Forever: See Day 6 Picton ( Aug/11)
10.  Please:
11.  Hope: See Day 8 Picton (Aug/11)
12.  Sorry:
13.  In Confidence:
14.  Counsel: See Day 3 & 4 Picton (Aug/11)
15.  Thanks: See Day 15 Toronto (Oct10)
16.  Signaling: See Day 4 Toronto (Oct10)
17.  Missing You: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
18.  Travails: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
19.  History: See Nov11/11
20.  Love: See Oct 15/10; Day 4 Minden (Sept/11) 
21.  Please Find Enclosed:
22.  Stay This Happy:
23.  Year End Round-up:
24.  The Word From Snod:
25.  The Word to Snod:
26.  Health:
27.  Home: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
28.  Away: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
29.  Bearings: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
30.  To: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
31.  From: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
32.  XO: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
33.  The Way She Wrote Her M’s: See Day 1 Minden (Sept/11)
34.  Way-finding: See Day 1, 2, 4, 7 Toronto (Oct /10) 
35.  Word-finding:
36.  Code For...: See Day 4 Toronto ( Oct/10)
37.  The Best Laid Plans: See Day 4 Toronto ( Oct/10)
38.  Taking a Stand: See Day 13 Toronto ( Oct/10)
39.  Text Messaging: See Day 8 Toronto ( Oct/10)
40.  Should-a, Could-a, Would-a: See Toronto (Oct/10)
41.  The One That Always Made Me Laugh/ Pretty Funny Stuff:
42.  Flourishing Under the Circumstances: See Day 14 Toronto ( Oct/10)
43.  Summer Love: See Day 1 Picton ( Aug/11)
44.  Formative Yarns: See Day 2 Picton ( Aug/11)
45.  State of the Art(s): See Day 5 Picton ( Aug/11)
46.  Affectionately Taisy & co.: See Day 7 Picton ( Aug/11)
47.  Bonjour de Clova, Abitibi: See Day 7 Picton ( Aug/11)
48.  Adult Non Fiction 340: See Day 2 Minden ( Sept/11)
49.  One Brief Shining Moment: See Day 2 & 7 Minden ( Sept/11)
50.  Gone Cobo: See Day 6 Minden ( Sept/11)
51.  Jeannie: See Day 7 Minden ( Oct/11)
52. Uncommon Grounds: See Toronto (Oct/10)

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