10 Key Fundraising Best Practices for Direct Mail
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The number of channels available for fundraisers seems almost limitless these days, but the old standby of direct mail continues to be the driving force for funds raised. Thus, it's wise for most nonprofits to continue fundraising through the mail.
At the Association of Fundraising Professional's Fundraising Day in New York last month, four fundraising professionals laid out 30 direct-response fundraising ideas in the session, "30 Ideas in 60 Minutes: Your Hour of Creative Power." Here are 10 direct-mail fundraising best practices shared by Valerie Kagan, president of VK Direct, during the session.
- Make your mail appeals as compelling as possible. Kagan said you should make sure to state your needs clearly and give donors real stories, facts, statistics, updates, photographs and more.
- Test different variables. You should always be trying to beat your control, so test everything from inserts to letter length, to time of mailing to the envelope.
- Evaluate mail campaign progress regularly. It doesn't make sense to continually mail donor segments that are unprofitable. Use analytics to weed out the disinterested donors, and place lapsed or low-dollar donors back into the acquisition program, Kagan suggested, because the cost per piece is lower due to the higher volume mailed in acquisition.
- Honor your donors' requests. "If a donor asks to receive mail only once or twice a year, make sure this is done. In addition, send a letter notifying the donor that this request has been honored," Kagan said. "In addition, track those donors who say they will only give if you solicit them at certain times of the year. If they don't respond to the once-a-year appeals, send a letter reminding them you honored their request but haven't received a contribution."
- Cultivate and upgrade your top direct-mail donors. Treat your top donors as top donors, using advanced personalization and an "insider" approach, acknowledging past giving history, using closed-faced envelopes, First Class stamps, etc.
- Make your mail appeals easy to read. If your mailer is tough to read, donors won't read it. Kagan said you should use large print — especially on gift asks — good photographs, plenty of spacing between lines and paragraphs, and coordinate the theme and graphics of all the mail components.
- Mail as often as the market allows. Letting donors "rest" typically does more harm than good, since donors who most recently gave are the ones most likely to give again. So mail as often as you can with asks to keep donors engaged and the dollars coming in.
- Match gift requests to specific needs. Donors love to know what their money is going toward, so if possible, match gift requests to specific needs.
- Have a clear vision of your organization's mission and goals before you develop direct-mail appeals. "Tell your audience exactly who you are and what you do, while giving them concrete reasons to contribute. Know the demographics of your constituency," Kagan said.
- Keep your eyes and ears open. Always be prepared. Build a library of photos, stories, news clippings and testimonials from your staff, your donors, your volunteers and recipients of your work to potentially use in future direct-mail appeals.