Five Easy Tips to Improve Your Fundraising Letter

1. It may be obvious, but be sure to ask for a specific gift! Don’t assume your donors know what you want them to do...make it clear to them. And, give your donors a choice on how to give. Include a reply envelope for gifts via mail, and list a secure website for web-based donations.

2. Keep your list clean. Run it through NCOA at least quarterly, and correct the addresses of donors who’ve moved. For years I received fundraising letters (the nonprofit shall remain nameless) at my house addressed to “Roger Crimpton, or current resident.” Neither my husband nor I are Roger Crimpton, and we've lived at that address more than 15 years. This is wrong on many levels. First, this nonprofit didn’t care enough about Roger Crimpton to find out he had moved. Second, even if he DID live there, it’s insulting to add “or current resident.” In effect that's saying “We’re not really interested in you as a person. We just want to get this letter to a warm body.”

3. Don’t call your donors “Friends.” If you’re not personalizing your fundraising appeals, you’re missing out. If someone has been giving to your organization for years, you’re insulting them by not calling them by name. For your next appeal, test the power of personalization on half your list, and compare the pull rates.

4. Be specific. Donors want to feel like they’re making a difference: Tell the story of a person your organization has helped. Describe how your contributor’s gift provided a scholarship for a needy student. Paint a picture of the beautiful wilderness your organization is helping to preserve. A recent study found that the “Millenial” generation (people between the ages of 20 and 40), especially, wants to know specifically how their gifts will benefit the organization’s constituents.

5. Be on time. Timing is everything in direct mail. Are you marketing at the best time of year? Do you have plenty of time to prepare your mailing or are you rushed? Most importantly, if your campaign has a specific “reply by” date, have you allowed your donor enough time to respond?

What do you think? What's your favorite fundraising tip?

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