How to Raise Funds for Your Nonprofit through Direct Mail
If you think you want to try large-scale direct mail fundraising at your nonprofit organization, consider hiring a direct mail consultant or firm to handle your campaign. Direct mail fundraising can be an expensive investment, and you want the best, most up-to-date professional advice available.
Successful direct mail depends on the following:
A cause that’s meaningful to many thousands of people across your state or the country
A clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with a mail campaign (perhaps to reach out to new donors or raise a large number of modest contributions that may be upgraded in the future)
A compelling, well-presented letter that makes its reader care about a cause and believe that the nonprofit described can make a difference
A well-chosen mailing list, usually purchased from a list broker
Nonprofit bulk-rate postage, which can save you a significant amount over commercial mailing rates
Easy, clear ways your letter readers can respond to the request by using a return envelope, response card, or web service
Testing your letter and list at a modest scale before sending the letter to hundreds of thousands of names
A direct mail schedule through which you solicit donors several times each year
When writing a fundraising letter, remember that many potential donors will read your letter’s P.S. before the body of the letter, so include any compelling information there.
Raising money through the mail depends on development of a loyal cadre of donors who respond by mail. Less than 1 percent of the people you mail to initially may send contributions, but after they give, add them to your donor list. You can send mail to these folks in the future and expect a higher rate of return (6 to 12 percent).
Donors who make repeat contributions are likely to stick with your organization for several years, making three or four (or more!) contributions in that time, and they’ll likely increase the size of their contributions. Adding to this value, you’ll uncover prospects for major gifts and planned gifts (contributions from bequests) among these donors.
Before your donor list develops into a significant and loyal resource, a direct mail campaign on your organization’s behalf may only break even on the cost of the initial letter writing campaign. You may even recover only half of your cost.
That’s why direct mail may not be appropriate for a small or start-up organization: the financial risk is high. You need to be able to cover significant upfront costs and not expect a strong return on that investment for several years.
If your organization is newly established, locally focused, too technical for general understanding, or lacking the resources to invest in mailing hundreds of thousands of letters, it still can use letters — both sent through the post office and electronically — to invite people to contribute. You can increase your mail response rates by having your staff and board members write to people they know personally.