Eight ways to increase the effectiveness of your direct mail fundraising

10th April 2015
  1. Direct mail fundraising is often counter-intuitive and the chances are that your CEO or other senior staff will have plenty of opinions about it. But, some of their opinions might do more harm than good to your appeals. Here is a rule of thumb for dealing with people who mean well but who aren’t fundraisers – don’t change your appeals just because one of them ‘has a feeling that this will not work’.
  2. The best way to improve the performance of your appeals is to do some testing. So make sure you test cause concepts, creative approaches, donor motivations, giving handles – then adjust your future appeals based on what you discover.
  3. Focus on Audience and Cause Concept first then on the Creative. When developing a direct mail campaign some clients want to focus their time and effort on getting the Creative right.
    Yet, understanding what motivates your audience and speaking to their needs is the most critical element of the planning process. After that, the focus should be on the Cause Concept (why the donor should give, and why now). Audience and Cause Concept account for up to 80% of the success of fundraising mailings.
  4. Are you hiding your ask deep in the middle of your appeal? If you are spending time and money to send out fundraising letters, be bold! Make your ask prominent and repeat it throughout the letter. And, while you are at it, make sure you are asking for a specific gift based on donors’ past giving history.
  5. Did you know that matching gifts challenges are likely to increase direct mail response rates and total income? That’s because donors love leverage. So, if you get one or more gifts from a grant making trust for a project you can follow that up with a direct appeal asking your donors to match the gifts you have received from the trust/s.
  6. Most people love handwritten notes, so you might not be surprised to hear that including a handwritten PS in your appeals can help to increase their effectiveness. Use handwritten notes on major donor appeals to make them more authentic and see your response rates and average gifts go up.
  7. Don’t use generic thank you letters for your fundraising appeals – make sure you write a tailored thank you for every appeal instead. Use it as a powerful tool to enable donors to experience how their gift made a difference and to show appreciation for their support.
  8. Stop treating direct mail fundraising as a selection of random appeals and think of it as an intentional programme for converting prospects into donors and for securing repeat gifts. Plan your direct mail programme – jot down key themes and take the donor on an exciting journey of changing the world through your charity.