Happy Template Anniversary – by Richard Sved

LinkedIn-template.pngLast month I celebrated an anniversary.

Nothing romantic, mind.

In fact, I didn’t even know it was an anniversary until LinkedIn told me so. I was celebrating two years as Trustee of the wonderful Child’s i Foundation.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think the charity I’m a Trustee of is great, and I also think being a trustee is a very important thing to do, so I don’t particularly mind sharing that news, even if the notion of having a two year trusteeship anniversary is a little odd.

No, what got me was that the first I knew about my special day was the dozen or so practically identical messages I received from connections congratulating me on it. After the first few came in, I took a screengrab – though I’ve anonymised the senders to protect the guilty parties!

What happens is that LinkedIn notifies my connections of the anniversary, and then provides a template to send me a message. Now I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I reckon the template reads “Congrats on the anniversary! Hope you’re doing well.”

So, about a dozen people pressed the button, and thought no more of it. Would they have wondered whether I might have received other identical messages? Is getting this far actually more thoughtless than doing nothing, in effect?

Because to me it has all the sincerity of the automated apology I sometimes hear on station tannoys. I don’t want to be apologised to by a computer, and I don’t want to be congratulated by template. And I don’t want to sound cold, but I actually don’t think they were really wondering if I was “doing well” because if they were genuinely thinking of me, they would surely have personalised the message a bit.

Now for a moment, consider this. How many templated thank you letters have your charities sent over the years? And do you think the recipient was able to tell, just as I could tell when my inbox was stuffed with LinkedIn missives?

You bet they can.

We need to move away from the “Dear Insert-Your-Name-here” culture. Our supporters need to know we’re writing just to them. Let’s properly tailor our communication, and in particular our thank yous, to each individual recipient.

Because if we don’t, you can be sure that we won’t be celebrating many anniversaries of their support.

Co-published with 3rd Sector Mission Control

Richard can also be found on twitter here!

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