The 10 Commandments of Direct-Mail Fundraising

Many thanks to Fundraising Strategies for the following “ten trite, sententious, banal, hackneyed, prosaic, and axiomatic direct-mail clichés that happen to be true:”

I. Once you start explaining, you are dead.

If a prospective donor is unfamiliar with your cause, you cannot explain it enough to generate a contribution.

II. Confused people do not give.

Even if a prospective donor is familiar with your organization and its mission, do not confuse him by including extraneous information in your mailing.

III. People give to solve problems, not to make friends.

Your donor will give to help you fight to rectify a painful situation. He’ll donate to right a wrong, or to save a sick child, or even to keep a worthy institution going, but not because of the nobility of your cause.

IV. Dead donors cannot give.

Be wary of lists of “supporters” or “activists.” Focus instead on lists of “donors” and “contributors.” Pick recency of donations, not dollar amounts.

V. Keep it simple.

Your graphics should aim at producing contributions, not awards for art direction. Use short words, and no more than 15 to a sentence. Write paragraphs of four lines tops. Interject lots of one-line paragraphs.

VI. Follow up on non-donors.

Send former contributors who did not respond to your last mailing a gentle reminder that they did not give when you were counting on their support.

VII. Follow tested-effective fundraising practice.

1. Grab your recipient’s attention. 2. State the problem. 3. Detail what you are doing to solve it. 4. Ask for a generous donation.

VIII. Get into the mail.

An imperfect package that arrives in the mail is more effective than an ideal mailer that never enters the mail stream.

IX. You are asking for money, not educating the Great Unwashed.

If you try to publicize your cause at the expense of focusing on raising money, you will not raise money — and probably not promote your cause.

X. Make people reach for their pens or credit cards.

Ask recipients to sign a note of encouragement, a petition, or a postcard to one of the people your organization helps. You likely will boost donor response.

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