Mal Warwick, the widely respected Berkeley-based expert on mail fundraising, provides seven pointers on “who, what, where, when, and why of direct mail for nonprofits”.
What is truly important in a mailing?
“Such questions as what you put in the P.S., what postage rate you use, and how many dollars are returned by a mailing,” Warwick observes, are of secondary importance compared to issues like:
To whom should you mail?
What should you mail to them?
When is the best time to mail?
What can mail accomplish for you?
Folly of mailing to satisfy immediate needs
“I’m probably slower than just about anyone else to turn to direct mail as a way to raise short-term money,” Warwick states. The best first step for a cash-strapped nonprofit “isn’t likely to be a solicitation.”
Event-generated mailing lists
Steer clear, Warwick cautions. “Event donors … won’t necessarily respond to a mailing.”
Reliance on brochures
In Warwick’s many years of fundraising experience, brochures “rarely justify the extra cost they entail. … There are lots of brochures mailed to raise money — but I think the greatest benefits they bring are usually to the designers who get paid to produce them.”
“I never mail a brochure without a letter,” Warwick states.
Direct mail is only one of several legs in a nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. “Follow through. Why bother otherwise?”
“Almost all the time,” Warwick states, “the right moment to ‘drop’ a direct-mail fundraising appeal is when you’ve got it addressed and stamped. … Millions of dollars are lost waiting for the ‘right time’ to mail.” Ignore so-called “hot” mailing months, he urges.
Warwick advises that “80% of the time” four items are essential in a fundraising appeal:
An outer envelope
A reply device
A return envelope
If a mailing-package element does not reinforce the letter’s message, Warwick urges, “leave it out.”
Modestly, Warwick adds, “Even if you know it all, you and I may see” fundraising direct mail “a little differently.”
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