Fundraising 101

Top 10 Tips for Direct Mail

Are you preparing to send a direct mail appeal? I bet every year you say, “next year we have to make sure we….”, but forget to write it down in a memorable place. Look no further. Here are ten tips that every development professional should keep handy during a direct mail appeal.

  1. Put a timeline together months before you send your appeal. How long will it take to draft the letter and get it approved? How much time does the mail house need before it will drop? Are you sending bulk or first class? Do you need to update any materials? This will help you keep organized, stay on track and get the mailing out in time. Start by working backwards – when do you want the mailing to drop?
  2. Find out if you have, or should have, a nonprofit postage permit. This can make the process less expensive and more efficient if you are sending a large mailing, but it’s not right for every organization. Be sure to check the rules and regulations – there are specifications on how you can list your address and which mail house the mailing can be sent from.
  3. Update your letterhead. Make sure you have a current list of board members and staff, updated address, current logo and branding formats.
  4. Customize your pledge cards. You should list the donor’s name, address, and last year’s gift to this campaign.  Most importantly, ask for a specific increased gift – you’ll be surprised how many people forgot what they gave last year and will follow suit with your request.
  5. Include a personal note for all important relationships. Be sure to print note cards with your organization’s logo and ask board and committee members to submit a prospect list and write personal notes. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable providing a list ask her/him to take a segment of your top donors and prospects that are receiving the mailing and write a general note.
  6. However, don’t send direct mail to major gift donors. This cutoff will vary for every organization, but make sure you have an individualized stewardship plan for your top tiered donors. The solicitation process should be relational, not transactional.
  7. Prepare the database. Whoever is in charge of entering donations should be ready to enter the incoming donations the minute the mailing arrives in your donors’ mailboxes. Make sure the campaign and fund fields are ready to go.
  8. Test your website’s donation portal. The world is increasingly online and it’s easier for donors to make a contribution with a few clicks than to write a check, find a stamp and pop something in the mail. Include the link on the pledge card and be sure it’s easy for people to make a donation online.
  9. Assemble an e-blast version of your direct mail piece. Prompt people to get online and make their gift after they’ve received your letter. It’s too easy to shove mail aside and say, “I’ll get to it later.”
  10. Create a thank you plan. Make sure your acknowledgements are current and ready to go and that you have the right person on staff to include a personal note. If it was a board member’s contact, be sure to let them know that the donation came in so a phone call can be made. Most importantly, if a large contribution or increased gift comes in, make sure the Director of Development or Executive Director knows about it and makes a personal call.