Focus On: Personalization: Dear Mr. Sample
Fundraising professionals should ask themselves: What do we know about our direct mail donors, and how can we use that information to initiate a more meaningful conversation?
Know your donors
On an information-saturated playing field where donors receive myriad offers and solicitations, personalization in-creasingly becomes a necessary strategy. For Bill Rehm, vice president of Mal Warwick & Asso-ciates and a fundraising veteran of more than 20 years, personalization is about making tactful and creative use of the data.
“Our success has been to look at the donor file as carefully as we can, and not just personalize the effort with the donor’s name and address, but to look at [their] history — how many contributions they’ve made over their lifetime, when they first became a member, their highest previous gift, their most recent gift — and to use that information, selectively, in the appeal,” says Rehm, who works with clients such as AIDS Project Los Angeles and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Mal Warwick & Associates uses this technique expressly for its clients’ renewal-membership series to show donors that their support is valued. One recent APLA direct mail retention effort (shown above) included a brief recap of contributors’ giving histories: “To continue serving our clients, APLA needs the support of core individual donors — donors like you who have been with us since 1999 and who have given so generously to APLA over the years. Your gift of $100 in 2002 was so extraordinarily helpful.”
The information was seamlessly inserted into the fifth paragraph of the letter, appearing as if it was prepared especially for Mr. Sample on Executive Director Craig E. Thompson’s typewriter. The appeal package also contained a membership-preference survey that asked questions such as: “Do you wish to receive occasional e-mail updates from APLA?” and “The number of mailings I receive from APLA each year is: too few; too many; or just right.”