next direct mail appeal

Year-end brings the largest flurry of direct mail within the nonprofit sector. Most charities rely on the final two months of each year to achieve more than 50% of the funding of their mission.  

New research confirms a course of action that can increase the results of those year-end appeals as well as other appeals throughout the year. The research was just released this week by the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy.

Thank You Letter BEFORE the Direct Mail Appeal

The portion of the research on Gift Acknowledgements we will be highlighting here centered on analysis of testing performed by Planned Parenthood. The essence of the analysis was based upon the simple premise of the following question:

Will sending a thank you letter out prior to your next direct mail appeal letter improve results?

The short and quick answer is YES!  Now let’s explore the how and how much.

This is a simple A/B test that virtually every nonprofit engaging in direct mail can reproduce with just a slight amount of effort. The Planned Parenthood appeal was divided into two equally sized groups. The first group did receive the thank you only (no solicitation) mailing prior as outlined in the slide below. The second group did not receive a pure thank you letter prior to being mailed the appeal letter.

next direct mail appeal

The Difference an Extra Thank You Touch Can Make Will Surprise You

Most of you are probably guessing that the condition one group did perform better when the dollars were tallied after the follow-up solicitation. However, the level of difference, as shown below, certainly proves the practice as being well worth the time and effort!

next direct mail appeal

Seldom does any such A/B test reveal a 67% increase over the control group.

There is much in the way of excellent analysis in the report regarding this test. My favorite analysis is this section:

“Whether a thank-you letter was sent did not change response rate to the renewal letter. The response rate to the renewal letter was 1.49% in donors who did not receive the thank-you letter and 1.43% in those who did receive the thank-you letter. A logit regression shows that whether donors received the thank-you letter or the version of the renewal letter did not significantly affect renewal rates.

But the thank-you letter massively increased the average donation amount…  Donors who received the thank-you letter gave more… to renew their annual gift than those who did not receive the thank-you letter.”


We hope this heightened your interest in various tests that you can do to increase the results of your direct mail appeals.  So much can be done to improve communications with your prospects and donors for most nonprofits.

We hope you find a new practice or procedure that can achieve a 67% increase in funding for your mission by such testing! If so, please drop a line or leave a comment to let us know.

annual fundraising appeal

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.