Fund Times

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My Check is in the Mail! October 11, 2012

Filed under: individual donors — fundtimes @ 9:51 pm

Wouldn’t you just love to open up your email one Monday morning and see this subject line?  What about seeing this a few weeks after you and your staff stayed up all night stuffing envelopes for your year-end direct mail campaign?  I can see you doing the running man already.

Despite the widespread use of technology in boosting a nonprofit’s ability to fundraise, direct mail (i.e., written appeals to potential and current donors) continues to be a viable tool for generating revenue.  However, with the lingering impact of the economic recession, competition for individual donations is harder than ever.

How then do you ensure that your individual solicitation doesn’t get tossed in the recycling bin?  Below are three tips for writing a winning donor appeal:

  • The Eyes Have It: Let’s face it: people’s attention spans are short these days.  This means that when reading your appeal, a person’s eyes are likely to just skim the letter; only capturing language in the opening paragraph, bolded text as well as the words in the P.S. portion of the letter.  Use this rule of thumb when crafting your appeal, meticulously placing information so that the reader is guided on your request.
  • Marching Orders: Once you’ve captivated the reader, your goal should be for them to bust a move.  Plainly stated, you want the reader to feel compelled to do something after reading your request.  There are three areas of the letter where your ask is likely to be seen: (1) the opening paragraph, (2) the last paragraph, and (3) the P.S.  Repetition is key in making sure that your reader understands what they can do to further your cause so say it once, say it twice, then go ahead and say it again.        
  • Dress for Success: I would argue that the most important part of a direct mail piece is the package that it comes in.  Does your donor envelope look like junk mail? Chances are, it won’t get opened.  Does it look like a bill? It definitely won’t get opened (just kidding, I pay my bills).  When deciding on an envelope, consider labeling your request on the outside of the envelope.  Does your nonprofit work to promote animal welfare? Place a picture of an animal in need on the outside of the envelope.  Tapping into the emotional side of donors is critical to long-term engagement in your cause.

Now it’s your turn.  How has your nonprofit used direct mail to further its fundraising efforts?


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