When Direct Mail Appeals Go Sadly Wrong

Dear “SALU” said the appeal, obviously missing the important step of mail merge.  Dear SALU, alas, wasn’t the only error.  The next sentence asked me–as a regular donor–to continue helping to do what they do.  But I’m not a regular donor.  In fact, I’ve never donated, though I am a member–and my membership makes clear that there is no part of my dues that allow a charitable deduction.

Finally, the request was to continue donating to something they do because THEY think it is important.  What about me–the donor?  Do I count?  Does it matter if I think it is important?  Clearly not, and because they so obviously don’t care about me, it is hard for me to care about them.

I suspect if I had an inkling of what the support would accomplish, I might be moved to give.  But simply telling me how many in this case students received services, is for me at least, meaningless.  Did they want the services?  Did they benefit from them?  If so, how so?

Okay.  You get the picture, I hope.

To make your appeal effective:

  1. Make it personal.  That means that yes, mail merge, and yes again, make sure it is set correctly
  2. If you are segmenting, make sure the segments are correct.  If you are not, then be more general–you support will make a difference.  Of course, gratitude helps, so if you can segment do so.  If you can’t, do thank all those who have supported our work in the past.
  3. Show me how my gift will make a difference.  Telling me how many people will be served only matters if you compare it to where you were. “Thanks to our wonderful supporters, we’ve been able to double the number of people…..”. Now I see that my gift has impact.  More importantly, show me how it makes a difference.

Direct mail, at best has a small effective rate.  Make sure you are making it as effective as possible by doing things happily right.

Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to go from mired to inspired.  Through training, coaching and consul, Janet helps your nonprofit increase its fundraising capacity and helps you to build stronger board.  Learn more at http://www.janetlevingconsulting.com and do request a free, 30-minute consultation. 


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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1 Response to When Direct Mail Appeals Go Sadly Wrong

  1. Eric Roth says:

    Sometimes forgetting the basics creates mega-headaches. Your post illuminates the consequences of such silly mistakes and some best practices to avoid these self-created nightmares. Thanks for sharing your insightful experiences as a donor and consultant.

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