8 Tips For Better Fundraising Letters

One of the best ways to improve your fundraising letters is to segment your mailing list. These tips show you eight ways to customize your fundraising letter to better address the different segments of your direct mail list.

8 Tips For Better Fundraising Letters

8 Tips For Better Fundraising Letters

Fundraising copywriter and direct mail consultant Alan Sharpe provides some great tips on the best ways to divide your list and boost results. It’s all about speaking to each audience in the best possible way.

Better Fundraising Letters: Eight Tips for Effective Direct Mail List Segmentation

1. Make a distinction between individuals, foundations and businesses
Do not mail one appeal letter to everyone without distinction. Instead, segment your database into individuals, foundations and businesses, and speak to each audience in a unique way.

2. Make a distinction between members and non-members
If you are a member-based charity, speak to your members as fellow laborers, acknowledging in subtle ways in each letter that you recognize them as members of your association. Speak to non-members as supporters of your charity, and as partners in your work.

3. Make a distinction between donors and non-donors
Acknowledge active donors, thanking them in the body of each letter for their recent donations, mentioning their last gift amount and date received where appropriate, demonstrating that you value and appreciate them in particular. Treat non-donors as friends, encouraging them to donate. Avoid language that implies they currently support your organization.

4. Make a distinction between active donors, lapsed donors and former donors
Monitor your house file to see what percentage of donors renew their support every 12 months-and what percentage doesn’t. Encourage active donors to renew their support. Try even harder, through special lapsed-donor-activation-letters, to recover donors who lapse each year. Treat long-lapsed donors as non-donors who must be won all over again to your mission.

5. Make a distinction between annual donors and monthly donors
Donors who support you through pre-authorized monthly giving are one of your most valuable assets. Don’t take them for granted.

6. Make a distinction between major donors and non-major donors
Don’t ask donors to give you a gift of $15, $30 or $75 when they have demonstrated their capacity to give major gifts through the mail. Set a threshold for what you consider a major direct-mail gift, and mail these donors a personalized letter or reply device that asks for a major gift that is within their means.

7. Balance asking with informing
Do not make every direct mail piece you mail an ask. And don’t make every package you mail informational only. Instead, strike a balance between asking and informing.

8. Make your appeals personal and donor-centered
Every letter should be addressed to a person by name with a personalized salutation, or, if the name on file is a couple, to a couple by name. No letters should be mailed without a salutation, or with an impersonal salutation (such as “Dear Friend”). Your letters should look like letters, and feature a separate reply device.

About The Author
Alan Sharpe, CFRE, is a fundraising practitioner, author, trainer and speaker. Through his weekly newsletter, books, handbooks and workshops, Alan helps not-for-profit organizations worldwide to acquire more donors, raise more funds and build stronger relationships. As the Director of Direct Development with The Gideons International In Canada, Alan manages their direct mail, major gifts and planned giving programs. Sign up for “Alan Sharpe’s Fundraising Pointers,” Alan’s free, weekly, email newsletter, at www.raisersharpe.com.

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Fundraising Letter Tips: Segment Your List – One of the best fundraising letter tips is to segment your donor list. Why? Because you need to write differently to your main donor categories so that you can measure your response rates and improve your results. After all, it makes no sense to say the exact same thing to a brand new donor that you say to your longtime donors. By segmenting your mailing list into five main categories, you can craft a better appeal letter for each donor group.

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