8 Smart Mailing Tips for Small Organizations
I teach a fundraising overview class at UCLA's Extension School, and last week was my favorite of the 10-week course: direct mail. But after going over controls, grand controls, bouncebacks, premiums and freemiums, and a wealth of other direct-mail staples, a student asked, "But what about those of us who only have a few hundred on our mailing list? What can we do?"
A great question — and so I dedicate this article to my Thursday night students. And to all you readers with mailing lists that are small today but with your hard work and passion will grow into direct mail at some distant tomorrow.
Yes, you must send out a letter at year-end. People are in a giving mood. They are being asked on the sidewalks, in the mail, in the email inbox, in person and at the mall. If you miss your opportunity to take advantage of the natural inclination to share at the year-end, you do so at your own (and your organization's) peril. But perhaps even more so than the large nonprofit that is putting thousands (or even millions) of pieces into the mail between now and the end of the year (not even eight weeks away), you need to be super smart to maximize your response. So, here are my "smart tips" for a prosperous year-end.
Smart Tip No. 1
Write a letter that is from your heart and feels very personal — but doesn't neglect good direct-mail practices. In other words, yes, these are your friends, former classmates, family members and other names you've acquired since you began your work. But the vast majority of them are being bombarded by your competition for their limited supply of charitable dollars, and you won't break through with a timid letter that makes it sound like you're doing just fine without their help. Instead, tell them what you have done in 2014 (just the highlights), but then say how much more you want to accomplish in 2015 with their support. Ask clearly and boldly. Tell them how much their gifts will matter to you and your organization. If they have never given, urge them to join your growing work by giving a gift today; if they have given, let them know that you used their past support wisely (you did, didn't you?!) and their gifts today will be invested just as wisely to maximize impact.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.