Let’s talk about an important component to a successful fundraising plan. Direct Mail. Now you might be thinking, isn’t everyone donating online or isn’t it cheaper to just email? While there has been an increase in online donations and email has a lower cost of output, direct mail still drives a majority of the fundraising results for organizations and schools across the country. In a recent national donor survey, 61% of all people who said they donated to charity in the past year reported making at least one of those gifts through direct mail. And with the increase of donations collected online, 37% of online donors stated that they first received a direct mail piece and then looked up the organization online to donate.
So what are the key components to a successful direct mail program?
First – Build a relationship
Direct mail should not be about transactional fundraising, rather relational fundraising. Donors want to feel like they’re receiving a letter from an organization who recognizes and understands their philanthropic interests. Letters should come from one person; the board president, school administrator or executive director. Signing the letters with different staff members’ names can be confusing and make the appeal seem less personal. If at all possible, letters should be manually signed in blue ink as an added touch of personalization.
Second – Create an appropriate message
The act of giving to a charitable organization can be a deeply personal decision – a decision that satisfies one’s personal desire to give back to the community or to help those in need. Use your database to segment your recipients based on past giving history and their involvement in your organization, i.e. alumni, parent, sponsor, or other segmentation. It is important to tailor the message for each segment. If a donor has given in the past to your scholarship program, you want to be sure you are messaging the outcome of the previous donation and explain how the next gift will make an impact. If you are planning to ask for a different appeal, you must help them understand how a gift for that appeal will affect them in the same way as a donation to scholarships. If you are soliciting donations that do not pertain to the donor’s interests you will have a difficult time retaining the donor.
Third – Say thank you
Sustainable fundraising begins with building relationships and retaining your donors. The number one way to retain donors and increase giving is showing appreciation for their gifts. This needs to be done in a timely manner. Industry standards suggest developing policies and procedures that require donations to be thanked within 2 to 4 days and major gifts should be followed up with a personal phone call from the executive director or better yet, the board president or board member.
Last – Measure success
How do you know if you have a successful direct mail program? Tracking what you have sent and the response to the appeal is paramount to the continued success of your program. Not all direct mail pieces are on target, but by recording the outcomes of your program you will be able to understand what and how your constituents respond. The best way to track this information is in a fundraising database. At MatchMaker FundRaising Software, we provide a fundraising tool to effectively track all constituent’s interests, donations and response rates to your direct mail appeals for the year. More importantly, you will have this wealth of information to utilize well beyond the year. Eventually, there will be an opportunity for a planned giving program or possibly a capital campaign for a new building or equipment. Your database will be critical to the success of future campaigns.