August 07, 2020
This year could be a time when fundraising schedules shift. Nonprofits that have canceled or rescheduled in-person fundraisers and shifted to virtual events might decide they also need to reach out to donors with a direct mail fundraising letter plea.
Why? Even when virtual events are successful, they don’t always bring in as many donations as live events always did. Plus, many nonprofits, especially those focused on human services, are finding that they need even more money to serve their clients, as the pandemic increases the need for their services.
It can be a good time to use a direct mail fundraising letter, for both targeted and year-end giving. Simple, inexpensive mailings that tell loyal donors about an organization’s work and its needs can cut right to the heart and be especially effective right now.
For one, it’s easier to get people’s attention with something tangible like a fundraising letter. Opening an envelope is a nice break from opening another email or sitting through another Zoom meeting.
And, while there is no doubt that millions are struggling financially, there are many people who didn’t have to spend their $1,200 stimulus check on the electric bill or the rent and who are looking for ways to help those who aren’t as fortunate as they are.
What seems like a bad time to ask for help is actually a very logical time to seek assistance. Survival depends on effective fundraising now for many nonprofits.
6 Steps for a Successful Fundraising Letter:
1. Have a direct mail processor clean your donor list
The best way to prevent postage waste is to run mailing lists through specially designed software that kicks out duplicates, eliminates old, outdated addresses and cleans up incomplete addresses. Professional mailing houses like ours invest in this software, keep it up to date and use it to improve delivery rates. If you haven’t had your donor list cleaned in a year, it’s time. A lot of people are moving because of the pandemic–one in five Americans, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center–so there could be a lot of outdated addresses in your list.
2. Ask about other ways to save money on mailing
If you are using a direct mail provider, ask about other ways to save money on mailing. At Bluegrass, we can describe the significant discounts possible by using nonprofit mail rates or bulk mail, for example. There are also ways to save by designing mailings that will work with the postal services’ automated equipment or that use an inexpensive letter-size format.
3. Trim your nonprofit’s donor list
Donor lists tend to get bloated over time. Two simple measures could whittle your mailing list down and improve your response rate to donation requests. First, you can remove names of those who have not given in a certain period of time. Most experts recommend removing those who haven’t given in the last three years. Then, consider your budget for a specific mailing and decide who is most likely to respond most generously to your request. Perhaps you could target those who have given significantly in the past, say $500 or more. Odds are they are most likely to have money to donate, even in these times.
4. Stick to a simple, inexpensive format for your mailing
Sure full-color brochures and pamphlets have a place, but probably not during a pandemic, when donors want to know that the money they give is going for services, not fancy direct mail pieces. A well-written fundraising letter can have a lot of power and, it also takes less time to design, print and mail, especially when there’s a printer available like our WEBjet 200D. This printer allows us to print a color logo as we print a letter, eliminating the need for preprinted letterhead.
5. Tell donors what your nonprofit needs to do its work
A lot of nonprofit pros worry their letters won’t resonate. Here’s an approach that might make writing these important messages easier. Pretend you are writing to your parents or grandparents to tell them about the work your nonprofit has accomplished so far. Chances are if you were writing them, you’d throw in some examples and tell them stories about specific families or clients and the difference your nonprofit made in their life. Be specific. Tell how much $100 can do for someone, for example. (Remember too that donors can give in other ways –in-kind donations, volunteer time, consulting, professional services– and remind them of that.)
6. Think about other ways you can use direct mail for fundraising
A professional direct marketing company can also talk to you about other ways direct mail can boost your overall fundraising efforts. You might want to send an inexpensive postcard to remind donors of an upcoming community Day of Giving or direct them to your website to sign up for a virtual fundraising 5K, Or it might be time to redesign a brochure that explains planned giving to the segment of your donors that are nearing or at retirement age.
Give us a call to talk about your fundraising efforts. We can help you with your direct mail campaigns, from concept and design to printing and mailing, but we can also help you create a campaign that integrates all areas of media, from online ads and Facebook posts to website landing pages.