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direct mail and nonprofit appeals – a perfect union! (part 2)

As promised, part two of how to make your nonprofit direct mail appeal successful.  Let’s dive right in!

Graphics

You know the expression “people eat with their eyes”?  Well, the same applies to donating.  When it comes to graphics in your direct mail appeal – optimize their use!  Good graphics will:

  • catch attention
  • convey your message
  • invoke emotions with one glance (the key to why someone gives) 

So here are a few tips for graphic selection:

  • make it segment appropriate – or in other words use graphics for each subsegment that speaks to them. For example, for your millennial prospects you may want a picture of volunteers in that age range.
  • keep it real – you don’t have to use expensive photography.  Real pictures taken by your staff of your organization and those you serve will have the most impact.
  • stay within your budget – graphics are powerful whether in black and white or color, so don’t feel pressured to spending more than your budget allows. If you use stock art you can find it reasonably priced at sites like Shutterstock and sometimes free at sites like dreamstime.

mailing timeline

Determine the most impactful time to send your direct mail appeal based upon giving and volunteering patterns and develop a schedule.

  • consider when your donors and prospects are most likely to give: the holidays, in the spring, during the time of a significant event.
  • evaluate whether it is better to send your direct mail appeal with an immediate follow-up ask, or space your direct mail appeals throughout the year.
  • determine each segment’s timeline individually. Some examples:
    • donors will get fatigued with too many solicitations, but new prospects will take many more touches to get them engaged to donate.
    • volunteers may respond on different time lines than donors.

follow-up

No matter how successful a campaign is, the follow-up is key. Here are some ways you can follow-up:

  • say thanks! – this one needs no explanation.
  • keep prospects warm – prospects who have not donated but visited your website or asked for more information should be followed up with promptly. Often sharing a testimonial about how donations made by others have already had an impact on your mission will inspire a gift.
  • give an update – while giving that thank you, it is the perfect time to update your donors on how their donation is being used and the impact they are having on the community.
  • keep in touch – a yearly newsletter recapping all of your accomplishments and celebrating your key donors makes them part of the family and keeps the important impact they are making front of mind between appeals – so when your next ask arrives, they are ready to give again.

Cost

Yes, the elephant in the room!  It is reality that all the best ideas have a price tag and must be in line with the budget.  Here are a few areas that will help keep costs down:

  • printing – leverage what is practical with what is appealing to donors.  Big, bold and beautiful art is eye catching and appealing, but aim to hit a sweet spot where you can strike the best blend of visual appeal and content with economics. Sometimes flash looks like wasted money to donors.
  • postage – make sure you have a nonprofit permit with the USPS and stay within the nonprofit regulations. Also, keep in mind that weight, size and shape of the piece affects the cost of mailing.  Visit the USPS to get more information about mailing parameters and the related costs.
  • tracking – evaluating what works and what doesn’t and making the appropriate changes will save you dollars in printing, mailing and postage.  For example:
    • what content and graphics get the best response
    • which segments are responding and what segments are not
    • when lapsed donors and prospects should be cut loose as non-responsive

We hope that you find these tips and guidelines helpful in your direct mail campaign!

Happy Fundraising!

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