If your experience is anything like mine, then your direct mail appeal is probably a large source of income for your nonprofit. Or maybe you wish it was a larger source of income than it currently is. Here are four practical steps that you can take to improve your direct mail appeal and raise more money.
1. Review Your Mailing List
Who are you targeting? Are you sending appeals to individuals that your organization hasn’t heard from in 10 years? Are you sending appeals to all of your volunteers, or are they not even in your database?
These questions are essential to ask months before you actually start designing and assembling your direct mail appeal. If your database needs to be cleaned up, do it. If you need to gather updated contact information and add volunteers into your database, do it. You won’t have a successful direct mail appeal unless your data is complete and accurate.
2. Re-design Your Appeal — Stop Sending Letters
I am not at all advocating to forgo sending snail mail. Physical mail is still a powerful tool for fundraising. But you should send mail that people will want to open and read. Rather than writing a two page letter full of facts about your program that won’t be read in its entirety (if it’s even opened), create a compelling direct mail piece that stands out.
One way to achieve this is to change the format from a letter to a card. Most junk mail comes in letter form, not in the size of a greeting card. That’s why we suggest designing a 5×7 card that is visually appealing. And if you send a postcard, you automatically bypass the issue of getting the recipient to open the envelope in the first place!
However, these unique direct mailings can be more difficult to create on your own. If you don’t have the design skills or resources to produce and mail this type of high-quality appeal, then outsource it. It’s worth it!
Working with a nonprofit direct mail fundraising company is a great way to set your appeals apart from everything else that ends up in your supporters’ mailboxes. Plus, with a platform like GivingMail, you can even save money that you would have spent by taking a Do-It-Yourself approach.
3. Center Your Appeal Around A Story
Stories are motivating. The background of how a program started and how you plan to expand next year does not raise as much money as telling a story. This means you have to work on identifying a story, which can be difficult depending on what your nonprofit does. For nonprofits that tutor students in reading, that’s easy. For advocacy organizations, that can be a bit more challenging. However, there are always stories to be told. It’s up to you to do the hard work of identifying the story and then telling it in a compelling way.
For example, you might have to think outside of the box and tell the story of why a volunteer has dedicated so much time to being an advocate for your cause.
4. Personalize Your Appeal
This is something that Bloomerang makes easy.
Personalized Names This can be done on the appeal card or on the pledge card.
Personalized Giving Amounts This cannot be overlooked. Asking for a gift of $100 from someone who gave $1,500 last year is embarrassing or, even worse, a missed opportunity.
Personalized Supporter Information You should included columns in your mailing list that provide helpful data about donors. What year was their first donation? How long have they been a donor? What program do they volunteer with? Did they attend your last gala?
Each direct mail appeal should have at least one signature and a note by the Executive Director, a board member, or a staff member. It is best when the card is signed by an individual who knows the donor, but if that is not possible it is helpful to utilize the above personalized supporter information in your note. For example, you can thank them for volunteering each week at the front desk, or for being a consistent donor since the organization was founded 10 years ago.
Liz Hixson is the Director of Community Engagement at STAIR of Birmingham and host of The Nonprofit Optimizer, a podcast that provides small nonprofits with practical tips, resources, and examples so that they can do more with less.