Friday, 9 August 2013

Eight helpful tips for improving direct mail fundraising

  • Direct mail fundraising is often counter-intuitive and the chances are that your CEO, trustees or staff will have plenty of opinions about it. But, the reality is that some of their opinions might do more harm than good to your fundraising appeals. So, here is a rule of thumb for dealing with people who mean well but who aren't trained fundraisers or marketers - don't change your appeals simply because one of them 'has a feeling that this will not work'.
  • The best way to improve the performance of your fundraising appeals is to do some testing. So go ahead and test cause concepts, creative approaches, donor motivations, giving handles - then adjust your future appeals based on what you discover.
  • 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. Although the Creative matters, because donors are visual, 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). Remember that Audience and Cause Concept account for up to 80% of the success of fundraising mailings.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Don't use generic thank you letters for your fundraising appeals - make sure you write a tailored thank you letter for each appeal instead. Use the thank you letter as a powerful tool to enable donors to experience how their gift made a difference and to show appreciation for their support.
  • 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 growing their engagement with your cause. Take time to plan your direct mail programme - jot down some key themes, provide continuity of stories and images, build upon previous appeals and take the donor on an exciting journey of changing the world through your charity. 

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