The Fine Line Between Raising Funds and Raising Ire Via Direct Mail
In the past two days, I've received six pieces of direct mail from Chase bank. Six. In two days. And two of those six mailers were exactly the same — same outer envelope, same teaser, same letter and inserts. Literally identical.
Needless to say, it annoyed the living heck out of me, especially since I already have a Chase credit card (albeit one I very seldom use). Yet here is this company, wasting time, money and paper sending me six credit card appeals in two days, including the same one twice. It's enough to make me cancel the Chase card I already have and maybe even prompt a stern request to stop mailing me altogether.
I bring this up because it shows the delicate balance between soliciting donors through the mail and driving them away. As FundRaising Success columnist and Future Fundraising Now author Jeff Brooks often says, he has yet to find any evidence that increasing communications with donors actually hurts fundraising, but that doesn't necessarily mean oversolicitation is perfectly OK with them either.
Fundraising can be a fickle thing. There are no concrete truths as to why donors give to certain causes and organizations over others. But the most common theme seems to be relevant communications and proper use of funds. In the case of my relationship with Chase, the bank crossed a ridiculous line in my eyes. Not necessarily just because it sent me six mail pieces in two days — though that is overkill — but because they were downright useless communications. All six packages were for credit card solicitations, when I already have a credit card from the organization. There wasn't one relevant offer in the bunch for me. It made me feel like a worthless customer, someone Chase didn't even know at all.
And while Chase is not a nonprofit trying to garner donations, the same holds true for fundraising mailers. Don't continually send your donors direct mail that doesn't deliver. If a donor is unresponsive to certain appeals time and time again, don't keep sending them; try a different approach. Otherwise, you risk the chance of alienating them. And for the love of all that's holy, don't send your donors the same direct mailer two days in a row!
I'm not suggesting fundraisers scale back their direct-mail fundraising or even alter anything they do with their mail communications. In fact, you shouldn't make any drastic decisions without testing first.
But I am suggesting that there's a fine line between engaging donors through the medium and drawing their ire. Chase crossed that threshold with me. Don't do that with your donors. Be smart and conscious with how you mail your donors. They'll thank you in return with tremendous support and generous donations.