5 Direct-Mail Fundraising Musts
No matter how many times pundits and prognosticators sound the death knell for direct mail, it still is the biggest workhorse in direct-response fundraising.
“Despite all the buzz about social media and other channels, direct mail still brings in more money than any other single fundraising channel,” said FundRaising Success Editor-in-Chief Margaret Battistelli Gardner in a recent Fast15, “Channel Surfing: Top Tips for Making the Most of Direct Mail, E-mail, Social Media and More,” sponsored by Advanced Solutions International. “And yes, it’s also one of the most expensive channels, especially for acquisition, but the key is to be smart about how, when and to whom you mail.”
With that in mind, here are five direct-mail fundraising musts that Battistelli Gardner shared during the Fast15.
Stories, stories, stories
Stories draw donors in, creating a personal touch and vivid images that recipients can relate to. A great fundraising story can get even the most skeptical donors to make gifts.
“The goal is to connect the donor and his or her dollars directly to the people those dollars are serving,” Battistelli Gardner said. “Make an emotional appeal that specifically tells donors what their money will do to help fulfill your organization’s mission.”
She provided the example of Operation Smile, which always includes before and after pictures of the children whose cleft palates it helps fix, along with those children’s stories.
Make sure premiums are tied to your mission
Premiums still work well in direct-mail fundraising, especially in acquisition, but the premium must be tied to your mission in order to stave off confusion and even skepticism.
“If the premium seems to have nothing to do with the work that your organization does, it might be viewed as being excessive and wasteful, which in turn can give the impression that your organization doesn’t use its funds wisely,” Battistelli Gardner said.
Test, test and test again
This should just be standard operating procedure for every fundraiser. Even if your control has gone unbeaten for years, you should always be looking for ways to top it and bring in even more dollars. Battistelli Gardner provided the following general aspects to test:
- One ask amount versus another
- Various incoming and outgoing postage types
- Different reply envelopes
- New offers
- New packages
- New outer envelopes
- Get out of your comfort zone with a new idea
One note: “If your budget is limited, test new packages to your existing donors before you try them on outside lists,” Battistelli Gardner said.
Maximize your direct mail
To get the most out of your direct mail, make sure to include:
- Different giving options — for instance, always include planned giving and monthly giving options
- All the ways recipients can connect with your organization — homepage URL, social-media information, phone number and e-mail address
Don’t stop mailing
“When times are tough — and face it, they almost always are — the temptation is to save money by cutting back on direct mail, especially acquisition,” Battistelli Gardner said. But this is a mistake, because direct mail is still effective, and acquisition is vital for an organization to sustain itself for the long haul.
Be on the lookout for ways to trim costs without affecting response, she added, and look for opportunities to co-mail or cut back on the number of pieces you’d planned to drop, not the number to times or the number of campaigns.
For more fundraising tips on e-mail, social media, multichannel and more, check out the full Fast15 episode here.