Is Your Holiday Mailing a Thumbs-Up (or Down)?

If your mail (postal and electronic) is anything like mine, it’s been a bonanza lately. Over the last several weeks, I have received calendars, greeting cards, supporter cards, address labels, gift tags and stickers. I’ve also received a number of donation catalogs, giving me a tangible idea of how my donation will be used.
Being a direct-response junkie, I love this stuff. But I know that’s not a universal sentiment. Others prefer e-mail (which I typically disregard since it’s all I can do to keep up with my work-related e-mail), and some enjoy going to events sponsored by their favorite nonprofits.

Of course, none of this is exactly revolutionary. You’re a fundraising professional, so you know the importance of using multiple channels to secure and retain donors. You’re constantly testing to find the next great acquisition approach or the key to reactivating lapsed donors.

But we’re all constantly refining to get even better. So here are a few areas where I see improvements are merited — and a couple of rave reviews — from the fundraising mail and e-mail I’ve received in the last few weeks.

Thumbs Down: Type too small or reversed out of color
Yes, this is a curmudgeonly middle-aged comment, but why do we ask donors to work so hard to read our letters? Surely there are a few sentences that can be cut so we don’t go smaller than 12-point type. And while reversed type may look great, if it can’t be easily read, it has no place in fundraising mailings.

Resolve that for 2013 your mail will be easy to read. Even if your donors are all under 50, they will probably enjoy your letters more if they are simpler to read.

Thumbs Up: Quality (and useful) freemiums
I have received some beautiful calendars this year and a few sets of address labels that I am proud to use. I’m reminded of the organization and its mission, and left with a positive impression.

I’m not up to an argument about whether or not freemiums create a dependency on the part of the donor. Let’s just leave it at this: If you send freemiums, make them things that the donor will value. It’s no more expensive to produce an attractive set of address labels or a calendar that has space for me to write appointments.

Thumbs Down: E-mail that doesn’t deliver on the promise
I took a minute today to look at an e-mail I received from a nonprofit and decided to send one of its e-cards. However, I nearly gave up because the link didn’t work. Once I finagled my way in, there were some instructions that must have been top secret since they didn’t show up until I hit send — and my effort was rejected due to my inadvertent errors.

I stuck to it and sent my e-card, but my impression of the nonprofit was less favorable than it should have been. Don’t forget to check everything twice before sending out an e-mail to increase the likelihood that you’ll make your donor happy he or she took the time to open it.

Thumbs Up: Enough correspondence to keep me informed but not overwhelmed
I hear regularly from some of the nonprofits I support. But others are over-the-top in terms of frequency (think one letter every eight days; thank goodness I never gave them my e-mail address). And yes, some mail and e-mail me so infrequently that I forget about them for weeks, even months.

Donors care about our work — or they would never have given in the first place. It’s great when a nonprofit thoughtfully sends out information that feels “just right” in terms of quantity. Of course, how much this is varies by donor, so being responsive to a request for less mail is a wonderful way to build a deeper friendship.

Let’s face it — we work in a field that has few hard and fast rules. We’re constantly testing to find the best strategies to net the most dollars for our vital programs. There’s a lot to love in the mailbox and electronic inbox these days. Our donors deserve the best from us. Thanks to all of you who deliver that day after day!

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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