8 Markers that Help Tell if Fundraising Direct Mail will Work for You

Can you afford test mailings?

If you can’t invest in a testing program, you are playing Russian roulette — which may prove fatal. Many untested mailings fail.

If a test mailing tanks, do you have a backup ready?

Always test an untried new package against an established control mailing, or risk being caught with your pants down.

Does your appeal compel attention enough to spark contributions?

Ho-hum direct mail deserves what it gets — a quick trip to the round file. Donors react favorably to news about real individuals and their needs — not to puffery.

Do you have enough resources to fulfill your promise?

Have you prepared and printed an acknowledgement letter to thank donors and deliver what you have promised right away — right away, not days or weeks from now? Have you enough staffers to handle donations? Are they aware of your offer?

Is your mailing list and other data up to date?

Prospective donors hate nonprofits that send appeals to the wrong address, misspell their names, even continue to mail to long-dead relatives.

Are your board members and other high-ups savvy about direct mail?

Very few donor-acquisition mailings break even. Successful ones generate names and addresses for future mailings. They put your program into the black. Yet many higher-ups kill new-donor mailings when they do not turn a profit right away. It is up to you to educate them.

Are your donor-cultivation mailings ready to go?

If you receive a response from a new contributor, you do not have time to start a cultivation program — which pays the rent — from scratch. Have a thank-you letter ready to mail the day you receive a donation, and personalize it. Have a newsletter’s current issue ready for the post office. And have at least three or four post-acquisition appeals on the back burner.

Have you opened multiple donation pathways?

Some donors prefer to send checks. Others would rather pay by credit card. Or make their contributions through a toll-free phone conversation. Do not limit the number of channels a donor could use to send money.

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