Direct-Mail Testing Tips
Direct mail is a cost-effective way of raising money that allows an organization to educate the public; can enhance visibility and broaden a donor base; and is a good way to recruit prospects for other non-direct mail fundraising (major gifts, planned giving, volunteer recruitment, etc.).
In their session “Why Direct Mail Is More Important Than Ever” at the 44th AFP International Conference on Fundraising, Lisa Maska and Tiffany Neill, both senior vice presidents at Lautman & Company, presented a case study of a small nonprofit launching a direct-mail program to demonstrate the benefits of direct mail and some best practices.
Maska and Neill recommended testing but said that when you test, keep three things in mind: Make sure you have a goal, whether it’s a higher response rate, a higher average gift or lower costs; make sure you know how big the test needs to be; and make sure you know if you’re testing one element in a package or an entirely new package.
Tests they recommended that can make a difference in response are:
* Letter length. In the case study, the organization tested a two-page letter against a four-page letter and found that the four-page letter brought in a lower average gift but more donors. Maska and Neill recommend writing letters for three types of readers: streakers, strollers and studiers.
* Courtesy Reply Envelope versus Business Reply Envelope. A BRE costs nearly $1 for each reply. Maska and Neill said CREs perform as well as BREs for many nonprofits and save on postage costs. They recommended testing it both in prospect and house file mailings.
* The placement of the credit card payment option. In the case study, the organization had the credit card option on the back of the reply slip but wanted to see if putting it on the front would draw more response. In the end, having the credit card option on the back of the reply resulted in greater net revenue.