Here are four tips on how a small nonprofit can begin mail fundraising without getting over its head:
One of the best ways to get started in direct mail, Stephen Hitchcock of Mal Warwick & Associates advises, is to publish a readable, attractive, economical newsletter four to six times a year. By enclosing a return envelope with each newsletter issue, he said, you cue readers to send contributions.
The next simple step to take is to make sure that you send thank-you letters to your contributors.
Include a low-cost reply envelope with your note of thanks — without any hard-sell stress. A small but significant number of individuals will use it to send an additional contribution — some of them even every month.
A third component of small-scale mailing programs is to send a year-end letter of thanks to all donors, board members, and volunteers, Hitchcock advises.
If you have skittish staff or board members, he urges, respect their feelings by avoiding any mention of a contribution in your letters to them.
A fourth step complies with Internal Revenue Service requirements that donors must prove that contributions of $250 or more were indeed charitable. Hitchcock urges sending a January mailing to contributors, reporting on their contributions for the previous year — including a statement from your organization that they received no goods or services in return for their gifts. Hitchcock states that many individuals who receive this report, which should repeat your organization’s thanks and appreciation, will send yet another gift.
Hitchcock recommends that you consider surveying your donor list to determine which other organizations your contributors support. That information will help you arrange attractive list exchanges with those entities.
Hitchcock notes that this handful of start-up mailing efforts will consume valuable staff time and require some financial investment. But they are likely to produce excellent results.
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