3. Make it easy for the reader to respond to the call to action. This generally means including a remit piece that reiterates all the important parts of the letter. Suggestions for the remit are:
- Include a compelling photo that tells your story. Headshots are usually the best; people relate best to one person (or animal) that needs help. (A photo of a child holding a kitten is gold!) Try to repeat a photo from your appeal letter so the package fits together as a whole.
- Restate the theme/thesis of the appeal.
- Make a clear ask for a specific amount (or range) that is within the realm of possibility (or sensibility) for this prospective donor. Don’t include a request for $25 to $10,000 on one remit. If you’re sending to a brand new prospect, asking for such a huge range is probably going to be confusing at best and offensive at worst. If you’re sending to a $500 donor, then it’s great to include some larger amounts on the reply device; but don’t go down to $25. And you probably shouldn’t send a request for $10,000 in the mail; that’s a face-to-face appeal.
- Flatter the donor by beginning with the assumption they are good people who care about what you do: “YES! I want to help save the whales.”
- Include contact information (e.g. your website URL and a phone number) in case they require additional information before coming to a decision.
4. Mail from the right person and make it personable. Be thoughtful about who the letter is coming from. Are they well-regarded? Do they have a direct connection to the subject matter (i.e., someone who was helped; someone who worked directly on the project?) Consider the difference between a speaker who reads a speech (especially one written by someone else) and one who looks directly at you and engages you from their heart. Chances are you will daydream during the former’s talk and listen during the latter’s. Inject the writer’s personality into the letter. A good letter should be like a two-way conversation. The messenger and the message matter.
5. Mail to the right people, and to enough of them. A guideline I’ve always used is that 80% of the success of an appeal mailing can be attributed to the list. And it’s best to segment your list so that you can tailor your letter (e.g. to prospects; first-time donors; ongoing donors; upgrade targets, etc.). If you’ve got a good list, then it doesn’t matter so much what you say. If your list is too small or if it’s filled with people who are not philanthropic or have no connection whatsoever to your organization, then the best direct mail package in the world won’t succeed.
6. Include a prompt, personal thank you after the gift is received. Yes, the acknowledgment is one of the key secrets of your appeal “package”. O
rder campaign letterhead and write your thank you template before you mail your appeal. Be ready! And try to get all acknowledgments in the mail within 48 hours. Add personal notes to them whenever possible. And always include a contact name and phone number + email should the recipient wish to become more involved or have any questions. This is the key to the effectiveness of next year’s appeal!