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18 Proven Ideas for Better Direct Mail Fundraising
 

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18 Proven Ideas for Better Direct Mail Fundraising

Here are ideas gleaned through years of experience to help you create a winning approach to your next mailing by fundraising expert Constance Clark

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MAXIMUM Generosity
Brian Kluth
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Colo Springs, CO 80919
Cell: 719-930-4000   Email: bk@kluth.org               Web: www.kluth.org

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Direct mail fundraising brings nonprofit organizations millions of dollars of gifts every year, and the numbers continue to grow. It has evolved into a highly refined art, if not a science. These steps sum up the basic principles used by the most successful nonprofits in their fundraising mailings.  

1.  Ask People To Give Money To Help Others   There’s no reason to give money for a building if you think the building will stand permanently uninhabited and unseen. But a building in which people will be helped - that building has purpose. People only give to people and when you’re asking for money by mail, it’s essential to create a link between the people you want to help and the donors who will do the helping.

2.  Be Specific About What You Need   When people give, they want to know exactly what good their hard-earned dollars will produce. It’s your job to tell them, the results you hope to achieve with their support.

3.  Quantify The Gift Amount You Request   Even if it seems contrived to you, your appeal will be more effective if you can honestly tell your donors that $25 will provide a one-day scholarship. And don’t hesitate to ask for precise multiples of the $25 request. High-dollar donors respond well to this approach, sending in checks for $2,500 to help provide 100 days of camp scholarships. Quantification makes your request believable and implies that you’re not asking for a penny more than you really need.

4.  Use A Deadline Whenever Possible   Nothing gives a sense of urgency as effectively as a specific date. If the funds are needed by June 1st, say so. Reiterate the date throughout the letter and on the reply form. Urge the donor to respond before that date passes.

5.  Help Your Donors Identify With Recipients  Your appeal must forge an emotional bond between the potential donor and the recipient of that donor’s gift. Tell a story of someone who benefited from camp.

6.  Use a True Story  When you plan your next fundraising appeal, try to push away the cobwebs of bureaucracy, burn-out, or habit that keep you at arm’s length from your cause. Take an hour or two to see your ministry afresh. Seek out your program staff or volunteers.  Listen to some of their stories about people who have been touched through your ministry.  Share one of these stories that appalled, terrified, or inspired you.  Use this in your fundraising letter. These stories are your most valuable asset when you write a fundraising letter; incorporate them whenever you can.

7.  Take A Cold, Clear Look At Past Fundraising Result  What has worked well for you in the past? Imitate it in the future. With updates and variations, your most successful appeal can often be used for years. Analyze your failures: Was your reply device confusing or incomplete? Was the copy dull? Or was the problem more subtle? Looking at less obvious failing can lead you to valuable conclusions. For example, your board’s pet project may leave your donors cold. Only experience can teach lessons like these, so don’t turn your back on your “bombs.”

    

8.  Personalize Your Donor Mail If You Can Possibly Afford It   And if you think you can’t afford it, test it once. Often the extra cost is made up by higher income. If you can’t afford to personalize, make your package look as personal as you can. Can you make the letterhead look like personal stationery? Use a “live” third-class stamp instead of a meter or an indicia? Use a “hand-written note” to good effect? Most of all, you can make the copy look hand-typed by using a common typewriter face, by printing it in black on white or pale pastel paper, and by using a second color (preferably blue) for signature, “hand” underlines, and notes. Talk to your graphic artist and printer for more ideas.  

9.  Make The Outer (“Carrier”) Envelope As Compelling And Dramatic As Possible - Or Leave It Blank   If you can afford to send a closed-faced envelope that looks hand-typed via first class mail, do it - and leave the envelope unadorned. But if you can’t, do everything in your power to get the envelope opened some other way. Spend as much time thinking about the carrier envelope as you do editing letter copy. Write at least 10 different possible “teasers.” Make the carrier envelope so intriguing that the recipient can’t ignore it. Put a lot of first-class creative energy into this, and your chances of getting the envelope opened are markedly increased.

10.  Try An Unusual Format   If you’ve always mailed No. 10 packages, try a monarch size. Or switch from a standard monarch to a 6” x 9” package. Investigate the many exciting forms now becoming standard in the direct mail marketplace. Format variations may cost more to produce than your regular package, but a small increase in cost may bring a large boost in response by recapturing people’s  attention.

11.  Pay Careful Attention On Your Reply Device   Too often we take this part of a mailing for granted. But, because it is the critical elements of your package - making it possible for people to send you money - many experts recommend writing the reply device copy first. Doing so will crystallize your fundraising request. Make sure the basics are there: your name, address, and telephone number; restatement of your request and the gift amounts you want to receive; the donor’s name, address, and code number, or sufficient space for a label; information on how to make out the check; tax deductibility information. Make it foolproof. And have several other people check it before you print it.

12.  Use A Survey To Get The Donor Involved   One effective use of a mailing is to ask a person to fill out a survey.  Most organizations have a reason to call public attention to their concerns at one time or another. When you do this, make the survey extremely simple to use. Pre-address it. Make your questions multiple-choice, and don’t ask too many. Keep the whole concept easy enough for an intelligent 12-year-old to follow - and be sure to encourage their financial support.

13.  Offer A Thank-You Gift To Your Donor - If It Relates Closely To Your Organization, The Donor’s Interests, Or The Project At Hand  You can raise your average gift by offering a premium when the donor gives $25 or more. But be sure the donor will perceive some value in this item, and be sure you can afford to send it. Used wisely, a premium - especially when it is sent to the donor with a thank-you note and a reply envelope - can work very well.

14.  Always Thank The Donor Quickly  It’s easy for overworked staff members to delay sending thank-you notes. Spend time and money to thank your donors. Your letter can be short, but it must be warm and personal. It must tell the person that his or her gift has already been put to work. It must come from the top person in the organization. And it should leave your office just as fast as you can turn it around. Gratitude serves as excellent cement between you and your supporters. Neglecting your thank-you program is an unforgivable and expensive error.

15.  Get To Know Your Donors  Open the reply mail and read the donors’ notes. Take their calls. Go to your organization’s special events. You must know your donors to make your fundraising effective. How old are they? What do they care about? Do they have children? Grandchildren? At the very least, pick up the phone and call a donor, every now and then, just to say “thank you.”

16.  Send Long Letters  Your staff, your donors, even your friends and family will swear to you that those four-page letters are too long. It may be true that nobody reads these letters all the way through, but long letters almost always evoke a better response than short ones. This principle has been proven time and time again, and it’s unwise to ignore the findings of mailers who spend millions of dollars to test these factors. As a general rule, your donor letters can easily take up two sides of a monarch-sized page at a minimum. Your prospect mail should be longer. If you’re convinced that your organization might be a rare exception to the long-copy rule, test your idea very conservatively, in small quantities.

17.  Find Good Vendors, And Get Three Bids On Every Project   Getting quality services from printers, computer houses, and lettershops is critical to your mailing’s success, but so is keeping costs low.  Use competitive bidding every time to assure that you’re getting the best possible price. But don’t sacrifice quality to get the rock-bottom price. Find a compromise between quality and economy by using the bidding process, communicating clearly with vendors and giving them time to do the job correctly. Also, ask for references and talk to your colleagues to find the best suppliers.

18.  Above All Else, Believe In Your Cause and Respect Your Donor  Direct mail fundraising produces the best results when it  practitioners love their work, operate from a solid ethical foundation, and infuse their mailings with spirit and conviction. It’s a fascinating field, with plenty of opportunities for creativity, excitement, and contributing to positive change. Enjoy it.

Source: Adapted by Brian Kluth for camps from an article in: Nonprofit World.  Author: Constance L. Clark of Clark Communications.  Used by permission.

Brian Kluth is a leading spokesperson nationally and internationally on issues of Biblical generosity.  He has ministered across America and on 5 continents.  His written materials have been distributed to more than 350,000 Christian leaders in more than 100 countries.  His website, www.kluth.org offers additional resources and insights into biblical financial and generosity matters.  He is also the Senior Pastor at the 1st Evangelical Free Church of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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 "MAXIMUM Generosity" -  21st Century Biblical Generosity Resources and Training ( www.kluth.org )

Home

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