A Beginner’s Guide to the Mail Appeal

by | Dec 12, 2018 | Development/Fundraising, Donors

by a friend and former client of Funding For Good

In 2017, I joined the world of nonprofit fundraising after many years in Corporate America. Over the last 18 months, I have learned so much about many different things: Donor relations, grant writing, prospecting, event planning, and the art of the direct mail appeal to name a few.

Direct mail appeal fundraising was something that I had never given much thought. If I’m being honest, even as I went through the interview process, that part of the job never even crossed my mind. I mean, it’s 2018, who uses regular mail as a means of communication? The answer may surprise you (it did me!).  According to The Nonprofit Times, donors surveyed were more like to read direct mail (37%) than an email (35%)! As someone whose job is to raise as much money as possible for my organization, that number got my attention!

Let me give you a brief history of my experience with direct mail appeals…

My first was in the fall of 2017. I was new, so I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out who I was targeting, I was just excited to get my message out there! By most measures, it was a very successful mail appeal. My organization raised a significant amount of money and had over 170 responses. However, because of my rush to get my letter in the hands of all those potential donors, I wasn’t able to effectively analyze my results. I wanted to know more: Who gave, who didn’t?  Why did they give? Did they read my letter? What if the message in my letter wasn’t compelling? So…

Here are the top 5 things I’ve learned and would encourage you to consider if you are new to direct mail:

1. Have a plan!

What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to acquire new donors? Are you hoping to re-engage lapsed donors?

Make sure you have a plan and tailor your message to effectively communicate to that target group. This will help guarantee the highest possible return and will also allow you to more accurately evaluate your results. You can’t reach your destination without good directions.

2. Cultivate, cultivate, cultivate.

It cannot be understated: It is much, much easier to gain a commitment from a donor that feels connected to your organization. To make your donor feel valued, you have to first understand how valuable each donor is. Whether they give you $10 per year or $10,000, they are sacrificing their hard-earned money for a cause they believe in. Thank them and give them another reason to believe in your mission. Send a handwritten thank you. Explain to them how their donation is contributing to your cause.  Call them simply to express gratitude. These things, when done consistently, will build a sustainable, engaged donor base.

3. All donors/prospects are not the same.

Avoid the “one size fits all” model when sending out your direct mail pieces. Your letters, messages, and asks should be different depending on who you are trying to reach.

Trying to acquire new donors? Try a simple message to introduce them to your organization coupled with a smaller ask.

Reaching out to current donors? Tell a success story tied to their support. Segment your donors into categories based on prior giving and tailor the ask amounts to those different levels.

4. Clearly communicate what you need.

Don’t fear being direct – it’s what most donors want! The fact that they are supporting your organization shows that they are already invested, so show them the need and ask them to meet it!

5. Tell your story!

Why does your organization exist? What is your mission? Become an expert at collecting stories and tell them at every opportunity!  These success stories are the reason you ask and the reason your donors give – don’t keep them to yourself!

Bonus Tip: Integrate direct mail with all your other resources (website, social media, email blasts) to achieve maximum success. According to www.mobilecause.com, 50% of donors are more likely to respond to direct mail when they receive multiple messages across fundraising channels to reinforce the call-to-action.

If we can help with Grant Writing and Research Support or Development Coaching, let us know. Maybe you just want a few hours of consultation with one of our nonprofit experts – we can help. You may also find some Upcoming Events to attend or helpful information in our Free Stuff section.

As always, Keep Growing for Good!

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