It is hard to choose the right media as it pertains to fundraising. Research shows that printed direct mail campaigns continue to be more effective prompts for giving. In fact, direct mail is more effective than email, social media, radio or TV. If you’re not including direct mail in your fundraising efforts, you may be missing out.
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Purchasing a direct mail list is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful direct mail campaign. As always, having a good, up-to-date mailing list can make or break the results you receive. Keep in mind; the overall goal is profile the best customers. Here are a few important first steps to help you achieve that.
Using direct mail for fundraising requires attention to detail and dedication. To make your direct mail a success you will need to employ as many best practices as possible. The goal is to raise as much money as possible to support your mission.
5. Timing is critical—it’s not just an expression
The mail is especially cluttered at the end of the fourth quarter. Unless your communication offers an opportunity for a year-end tax break or a unique holiday function, that may not be the time to compete for attention. Depending on your target audience, April tax-time might be a difficult time to be noticed. The month of August when people are finishing vacation and getting children ready for school is also not the best time of the year to grab people’s attention. Finally, during election years, in the days and weeks running up to an election, the flood of campaign collateral headed to printers, mail houses and the postal service intended for businesses and homes can delay every step of your project and impact its impression on your target audience.
What key factors contribute to a successful direct mail campaign? There are several, including the quality of your mailing list, the offer you make in your communication, strong design, effective copy, the timing of the campaign, and mailing specifications. Additionally, the lead-time you give your designer, the time you build into your schedule for printing and mailing, the type of printing you choose and USPS mailing specifications and costs have a huge impact on the success of your project.
Here are 10 direct-mail fundraising best practices shared by Valerie Kagan, president of VK Direct, during the session.
- Make your mail appeals as compelling as possible. Kagan said you should make sure to state your needs clearly and give donors real stories, facts, statistics, updates, photographs and more.
- Test different variables. You should always be trying to beat your control, so test everything from inserts to letter length, to time of mailing to the envelope.
- Evaluate mail campaign progress regularly. It doesn't make sense to continually mail donor segments that are unprofitable. Use analytics to weed out the disinterested donors, and place lapsed or low-dollar donors back into the acquisition program, Kagan suggested, because the cost per piece is lower due to the higher volume mailed in acquisition.
- Honor your donors' requests. "If a donor asks to receive mail only once or twice a year, make sure this is done. In addition, send a letter notifying the donor that this request has been honored," Kagan said. "In addition, track those donors who say they will only give if you solicit them at certain times of the year. If they don't respond to the once-a-year appeals, send a letter reminding them you honored their request but haven't received a contribution."
- Cultivate and upgrade your top direct-mail donors. Treat your top donors as top donors, using advanced personalization and an "insider" approach, acknowledging past giving history, using closed-faced envelopes, First Class stamps, etc.
- Make your mail appeals easy to read. If your mailer is tough to read, donors won't read it. Kagan said you should use large print — especially on gift asks — good photographs, plenty of spacing between lines and paragraphs, and coordinate the theme and graphics of all the mail components.
- Mail as often as the market allows. Letting donors "rest" typically does more harm than good, since donors who most recently gave are the ones most likely to give again. So mail as often as you can with asks to keep donors engaged and the dollars coming in.
- Match gift requests to specific needs. Donors love to know what their money is going toward, so if possible, match gift requests to specific needs.
- Have a clear vision of your organization's mission and goals before you develop direct-mail appeals. "Tell your audience exactly who you are and what you do, while giving them concrete reasons to contribute. Know the demographics of your constituency," Kagan said.
- Keep your eyes and ears open. Always be prepared. Build a library of photos, stories, news clippings and testimonials from your staff, your donors, your volunteers and recipients of your work to potentially use in future direct-mail appeals.