Content Marketing

5 Truths: How Often Can You Mail Appeals to Nonprofit Donors?

Most nonprofits don’t mail often enough.

How often is enough?

Well… if there was one quick answer I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole article. I’d just have given you a headline with a definitive response!

I know you want a definite answer.

And I could give you one. But it wouldn’t be the truth. Because the truth is different for every nonprofit.

And the truth will even be different for your nonprofit at different points in your life cycle.

There are five definitive things I can tell you:

  1. You are not your donors.
  2. Your donors lie.
  3. Opinions don’t matter; tests do.
  4. Out of sight is out of mind.
  5. What, how and who you mail to matters.
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How to Fight Nonprofit ‘Resting on Laurels’ Syndrome

Are you planning to do, more or less, the same thing you did last year for your annual fundraising push?

I mean things like:

  • Recycling the exact same appeal letter
  • Mailing to the same list
  • Failing to segment your list
  • Failing to clean up addresses and de-dupe your list
  • Using the same donation landing page
  • Mailing only one appeal letter
  • Sending only one or two emails
  • Failing to link to your appeal on social media
  • Failing to ask your influencers to share with their peers
  • Failing to encourage recurring gifts
  • Failing to suggest specific ask amounts
  • Failing to ask major donor prospects in person
  • Failing to send a prompt, personal thank you
  • Failing to have a donor love & loyalty plan in place to retain these supporters
  • … the list goes on!

I was moved to write this article after recently attending an excellent production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” at the S.F. Playhouse. I found it surprisingly moving, especially the final musical number: “Move on.” And, being me, I was able to relate it to something I find all too common in nonprofit work.

Something insidious that kills innovation and inexorably drains spirits.

It’s almost a disease.

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10-Step Annual Appeal from Start to Finish

The end of the calendar year is prime fundraising season. For most nonprofits, September through December will make or break your annual campaign. So… I want you to do the following:

  1. If you’re just sitting down to write your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step guide to crafting a winning fundraising offer.
  1. If you’ve already written your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step checklist to assure your fundraising offer is truly one a prospective donor won’t be able to refuse.
  1. Vow next year to have at least your appeal letter draft written and approved by September 1st. Put this date in your calendar, and work backward to create a timeline of all the steps necessary to meet this deadline. This will give you plenty of time to tweak your appeal language for different mailing segments, prepare your email and social media campaign using messaging and images from your mail appeal, get the letter to the printer and mail house, and prepare your carrier envelope, remit piece, donation landing page, thank you letter and overall acknowledgment plan.
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