Is Your Holiday Mailing a Thumbs-Up (or Down)?

There's a lot to love in the mailbox and inbox these days, but …

If your mail (postal and electronic) is anything like mine, it’s been a bonanza lately. Over the last several weeks, I have received calendars, greeting cards, supporter cards, address labels, gift tags and stickers. I’ve also received a number of donation catalogs, giving me a tangible idea of how my donation will be used.
Being a direct-response junkie, I love this stuff. But I know that’s not a universal sentiment. Others prefer e-mail (which I typically disregard since it’s all I can do to keep up with my work-related e-mail), and some enjoy going to events sponsored by their favorite nonprofits.

Of course, none of this is exactly revolutionary. You’re a fundraising professional, so you know the importance of using multiple channels to secure and retain donors. You’re constantly testing to find the next great acquisition approach or the key to reactivating lapsed donors.

But we’re all constantly refining to get even better. So here are a few areas where I see improvements are merited — and a couple of rave reviews — from the fundraising mail and e-mail I’ve received in the last few weeks.

Thumbs Down: Type too small or reversed out of color
Yes, this is a curmudgeonly middle-aged comment, but why do we ask donors to work so hard to read our letters? Surely there are a few sentences that can be cut so we don’t go smaller than 12-point type. And while reversed type may look great, if it can’t be easily read, it has no place in fundraising mailings.

Resolve that for 2013 your mail will be easy to read. Even if your donors are all under 50, they will probably enjoy your letters more if they are simpler to read.

Thumbs Up: Quality (and useful) freemiums
I have received some beautiful calendars this year and a few sets of address labels that I am proud to use. I’m reminded of the organization and its mission, and left with a positive impression.

Pamela consults with nonprofits in the United States and internationally, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations, getting hands-on experience in everything from direct mail to DRTV, and major gift solicitation to event management. Pamela is a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and has a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.

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