Direct Mail Fundraising for Nonprofits: Tips & Top Providers — Meyer Partners Full-Service Nonprofit Communications

direct mail fundraising best practices for nonprofits

1. know your audience

The first and most essential best practice to follow when designing a direct mail fundraising strategy is to know your audience. the most basic distinction to consider is: are you sending appeals to your internal file or to a list of prospects?

internal file

All of your past donors and supporters are part of your nonprofit’s internal file. this list contains people who have shown interest or commitment to your cause in the past. By submitting appeals to your organization’s internal archive, you may be trying to meet a certain fundraising goal, help donors to the next level of giving, or enroll a certain number of donors in a monthly giving program.

prospect list

A prospect list is what it sounds like: a list of people who haven’t yet committed to your organization, but may be willing to do so. Lead lists for direct mail campaigns can be purchased, rented, or traded with other nonprofits. In general, the purpose of sending prospect appeals is to acquire new donors to add to your internal file.

Beyond these general categories, it’s helpful to further segment your audience so you can tailor your appeals to specific groups. After all, personalization is the key to connecting with your donors: the more personal your appeals are, the better positioned your organization is to develop real relationships with real people on the receiving end. Furthermore, when recipients feel recognized as individuals, they are more likely to feel a sense of responsibility to respond.

Once you’ve segmented your internal file into relevant groups, you’ll be able to engage your donors with personal references and a personalized tone. Loyal, long-time donors would appreciate a more friendly and intimate appeal style, while donors with previous volunteer involvement might appreciate a reference to their volunteering history.

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If you need more reasons to know your audience and tailor your campaigns accordingly, studies have found that personalizing fundraising campaigns leads to a 5-15% increase in revenue. adding a person’s name along with other information from your donor database increases response rates by up to 500%.

2. rely on narration

Perhaps the single greatest aspect of direct mail’s appeal is the personal touch: the letter in the mailbox ending up on the kitchen table and, ultimately, in the hands of its giver. the closeness of this interaction presents a wonderful opportunity to connect with donors with good, strong stories. the medium contributes to the power of the story, and vice versa.

the power of story is something we put a lot of energy into here at meyer partners. To tell a compelling story in direct mail appeals, we rely on the three Rs: Resonance, Relevance, and Respect.

resonance | a story is only as strong as its details

To connect with another person, the story you tell must resonate with them: it must be touching, moving, truthful, honest, passionate and direct. the best way to tell a story that resonates is to tell a story that actually happened. concoctions of various of your constituents’ experiences rarely ring true, because they really aren’t. To tell the most impactful story, talk to the people your nonprofit has helped. visit them in their homes. meet your children. take note. write down the details. Gather more information than you think you need. then, when you sit down to write your story, you’ll have a wealth of humanizing details to draw on to make your appeal as poignant as possible.

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relevance | where does the donor fit into the picture?

A good story is only a good story unless it feels relevant to the giver. There are a variety of methods you can use to make the story relevant to the donor. use the second person “you” liberally to draw the reader into the story. appeal to the values ​​and ideals of the reader. also, address the impact that a donation from that specific person can have. this allows the donor to imagine himself as the hero of the story, which he really is when he contributes to its cause.

respect | avoid false urgency, scare tactics and blame

A deep sense of respect should permeate every appeal you send to your donors. Respect your donors by being honest and genuine and communicating your true need directly and honestly. what you don’t want to do is insult the donor or engage in tactics that could be perceived as manipulative. You don’t need to overstate the urgency of your nonprofit’s need or scare donors with shocking images and stories. you are writing to engage your donors, not to manipulate them. donors can tell the difference!

3. connect copy with images

In an effective direct mail appeal, visual and written elements interact in a cohesive way, each helping the other reach donors in their hearts and minds, not just in their mailboxes. Visual elements should include photography and creative design that draws attention to the main points of the appeal. When choosing a photo for your direct mail appeal, don’t just choose a pretty image, strategically select an image that conveys information and reinforces what you’ve said in the copy. A compelling photo draws in donors and makes it much easier to empathize with your cause.

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4. set goals and measure impact

Every direct mail fundraising campaign needs a specific goal and tools to assess progress toward that goal. you’ll also want data analytics capabilities to test your attractions…and test them over and over again. Analyzing the results of various versions of direct mail appeals provides your organization with information that can point to the most successful configurations. you might find that a specific appeal with these graphics, this story, sent at this time of year, to this audience is highly successful compared to your average results. You’ll want to implement that appeal, plus the lessons you’ve learned from it, as much as possible to increase your fundraising numbers.

5. combine direct mail and online fundraising

There are so many channels through which to reach donors these days: text messages, calls, email, social media, mail, TV, radio…the list goes on. You don’t have to cover every channel with every campaign, but a multi-channel approach that combines direct mail and online fundraising tactics is more likely to deliver the best results. After all, people don’t interact with each other through just one channel, so you shouldn’t either. a great tool to combine online and offline channels is a qr code. A qr code on a poster, tv ad, or mailing can direct your supporters to online resources, such as your online donation form, social media pages, or a fundraising web store where you can sell branded merchandise. its cause.

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