|How should we use direct mail?|
|On 4/10/95 Mary Ellen Barnes provided this information for the Nonprofit FAQ.
There are quite a range of opinions among professional fundraisers on the value of direct mail. Some see it as a waste of time and money, others see it as the best way to grow a donor base. Most think it has at least a limited place in any fundraising plan for the following reasons:
If done right, direct mail can be the source of consistent income. Some advocate using direct mail as a cost effective way to renew your current donors, for special appeals and for capital campaigns. Others believe it is best used for soliciting new donors or prospecting. This can be expensive. It
usually takes about 2 to 3 years to break even.
How do you decide if direct mail is right for your organization?
Ask yourself the following questions (taken from Succeeding with Consultants published by the Foundation Center):
What is in a Direct Mail package?
A personal letter (short or long)
A personalized reply form
A reply envelope
Where do you get good lists?
Develop an in-house list by asking board, volunteers and current donors to give names of those whom they think might want to become involved.
Trade names with other like organizations for one time use.
Rent lists from other local organizations in your regional area.
Rent local portions of national lists which support causes similar to what your group does.
What type of format/design is best?
Renewal packages tend to be simply presented.
Special appeals and cultivation/acquisition mailing tend to be more graphic using more color and photos.
Capital campaigns tend to be more personalized and dignified in their graphic approach.
Is there as best time of year to mail?
"If you are waiting for the perfect time to mail, your letters may never make it to the mailbox. And if there's any key to success in direct mail fundraising, it's this: you have to mail, and mail, and mail some more." - Mal Warwick in Revolution in the Mailbox .
(Order http://www.amazon.com/dp/0787964298/?tag=internetnonprofi">Revolution in the Mailbox; a royalty will be paid which helps support this site.)
Don't mail in April. People may be thinking about money, but they are thinking of ways to keep it, not give it away. All the other months are OK.
What are the typical response rates to expect?
For Donor Acquisition Mailings the response rate is between 0.5% and 2.5%.
For re-solicitation Mailings the response rate is between 6% and 12%.
How many mailings does it generally take to get a renewal gift?
It usually takes several mailings (between 5 and 9 mailings).
Research shows that most donors will set aside the first letter asking them to renew their financial support. The fourth notice in a series motivates donors to use a reply device from one of the earlier mailing. It helps to remind donors that they have given before. Use at least 4 mailings in your effort to renew. Some organizations use as many as 7 or 8 letters to renew donors. Space the letters between five and eight weeks apart. This builds momentum.
How do you write the appeal letter?
The appeal letter should concentrate on the benefits of supporting (or joining) your organization. Don't concentrate on your organization's needs. Use benefits such as lives saved, human dignity gained, larger causes served, etc.
Use board letterhead
Have only one person sign the letter using a different color that the rest of the letter. The appeal is a letter from one individual to another. Use 'I" and "you," mostly "you." Remember "you," the signer, are an individual with hopes, dreams, fears and experiences, write about them. Remember "you" are writing to one person - the addressee - who also has hopes, dreams, fears and experiences, write about them. Your organization addresses human needs on many levels, intangible as well as concrete, emotional as well as practical, write about them.
Write as long a letter as you need to state your case for giving. 2 - 4 page letters work better that 1 page letters or really long ones.
Use large type, short indented paragraphs (not over seven lines), highlight important passages or use bold face type - make it easy to read. Use ragged right margins. In long letters try subheads that are centered.
Write in standard American English. Use short punchy sentences. Use words that convey emotion. Don't use lots of adverbs and adjectives. Avoid the use of abbreviations and acronyms.
Always include a business reply envelope (BRE) and a personalized response form.
Always include a meaty postscript - people read them more than the letter.
Ask for the gift in the 3rd or 4th paragraph and repeat in several times throughout the letter - but don't sound desperate. People like to give to organizations that are doing well, not those that seem about to go under. Ask for money, not for "support." This should not be an afterthought, tacked on to the bottom of the letter. It is your reason for writing. Repeat it several times and also include it on the response form.
Give your readers a reason to respond NOW. Use budget deadlines and matching gifts to create a timely response (don't do this if mailing bulk rate however, it will send mixed messages).
Remember- "Every year Americans donate tens of billions of dollars to nonprofit organizations. Some write small checks for ten or fifteen dollars, others make contributions of many thousands of dollars. But the odds are they have one thing in common: Their first gift was made when they received a letter asking for financial support." - Assoc. of Direct Mail Fundraising Council (http://www.adrfco.org/)
Submitted by Mary Ellen Barnes, Ph.D.
Thanks to many members of Talk-Amphilrev for their advice on Direct Mail
Thanks also to Florence Green & Associates for the information provided at Ms. Green's Fundraising Seminar - Going for the Green