Get Out of Your Direct-Mail Comfort Zone
A few times a year, I teach an introduction to fundraising class for an adult education program. It's a lot of fun for me (Wow! People are actually paying to hear me reminisce about direct mail in the 1980s!), and it gives me a lifelong learning experience.
Things I take for granted get viewed with fresh eyes, and students freely share their likes and dislikes. While it's easy to brush aside their comments as "uninformed," the truth is, they are thinking more like donors than I may be after more than three decades of fundraising experience.
Here are a few lessons I've learned in the classroom over the last few months.
Lots of people really like freemiums
Let's face it, we get jaded. Address labels? For the senior set. Calendars? Who really uses them? But before you dismiss them totally, show them to some people who aren't employees of your nonprofit and, in fact, may not know anything about you. Would they use whatever the premium is? Does it seem incongruous with your mission? Would they feel good about receiving it from you? Is it tacky, sending the wrong message? Would it make them send in a donation?
I'm not advocating freemiums for everyone. But before you dismiss them (or include them in every other mailing), talk to people outside your organization and get their opinions.
Poor targeting isn't just wasting your money — it's irritating
One of the biggest complaints I hear is when students get a mailing that is totally wrong for their demographic. It doesn't matter if it's targeted to a different age group, a different faith group or a different gender — it makes people mad.
We all know how hard it is to target accurately 100 percent of the time. Somehow someone's name ended up on a list that isn't his or her demographic at all. While we can't completely eliminate this problem, we can train donor-services staff to be genuinely apologetic when someone calls in to complain. You may not gain a donor, but you might lose a detractor.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.