How to Spice Up Your Fundraising Mail

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 18 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

During fundraising season, you’re marketing to two groups: those who have never given (prospecting mailings) and those who have (house-file mailings). Here are a few tips on how to capture them both, while spicing up your fundraising mail strategy.

Tips for Spicing up Your Fundraising Mail

Design for a ten-minute read and a 10-second skim

Most of your readers will toss the mail right away, or they will be skimmers. But don’t freak out. Direct mail still works! You just need to know how to invest in those who are opening the envelope to lead them quickly and effectively toward the give.

Skimmers have three main questions as they give you 10 seconds of their time: What is this? Why am I interested? What do they want from me?

Your job is to show off the most important parts of your campaign to answer these questions quickly. To do this employ:

  • White space—Don’t overcrowd your campaign
  • Images—Large blocks of unbroken text will almost never be as engaging as a mix of text and image.
  • Pull quotes and bullet points—These will help skimmers quickly determine answers to their questions above.
  • Well-chosen bold and italics, and/or a “P.S.”—Same here as with the pull quotes.

These “10 second” elements should give your entire pitch, provide a sense of your bigger story, and land the ask.

The rest of your letter fills out the big picture, with some added detail. The whole letter is for your leisurely 10-minute readers.

Don’t underestimate Millennials

Don’t underestimate them as lovers of direct mail, and don’t underestimate them as givers. Studies show that Millennials love mail. And Millennials generally seek to contribute to a larger cause. They won’t do it, however, just because it’s the “done” thing, as in previous generations. They want to know the story of an organization or cause, and how it personally resonates with them.

It sounds self-absorbed, but it’s not, really. Though they may be in student loan debt up to their eyeballs, they’re still looking to make a difference and contribute to the good in a way that they’re confident makes sense for them. They’re weighing their investments. Take advantage of that. Make sure your message has potential to be personally compelling, and don’t be afraid to include plenty of 24-37 year-olds on your mailing list.

Get close, quick

There are few times, other than say, the dentist, when you would give a complete stranger quick access to very intimate details of your life. But that’s exactly what readers of your fundraising campaign need. You want to establish a very quick connection, and so you may end up using language that sounds like you’re better buddies with this reader than you actually are in your fundraising mail.

Don’t overdo it to the point of being cheesy, or giving away actual secrets, but here are some tacks you can take:

  • Use first and second person pronouns, like “I,” “we,” and “you.” Personal pronouns grab attention.
  • Share inside details or a story that give the reader an insider’s glimpse into your organization.
  • Be honest about your reasons for running the campaign. (This one can risk oversharing, and you have to be careful about tone. For example, if the ship is sinking and you urgently need funds, would it be helpful to your readers to know that? Or would that be a turn-off?)
  • Ask multiple times. This starts drawing a “picture” of the act of giving in someone’s mind, which turns on pleasure centers in the brain as they anticipate doing a good deed. Make the ask several times, and make it explicit.
  • Be vulnerable. Shoot straight and from the heart. As much as you can (again, beware the cheese factor), show your soft side and have warmth. You are making an honest emotional appeal, but an emotional appeal nonetheless!

Ask for a specific amount

This tip is quick and simple. Always partner “Won’t you give today?” with a specific range of numbers. Don’t be shy of that dollar sign in your fundraising mail. Seeing a specific number—ideally, a range of numbers—clicks in readers minds. It makes the possibility of giving concrete. And time and time again, organizations have found that it works!

Alternate asks with non-asks

This is especially important for your house-file mailings since the recipients already know you. If you had a friend who asked you for things every time you saw them, you might begin to question the real value of your friendship. Along with continued chances to give, your current sponsors need check-ins, exclusive inside opportunities, stories, holiday greetings, and other means of building the relationship. This is donor nurture. Then, when it’s time to ask, you can pitch an even more targeted ask.

Watch out for Ms. Mullins

There is an English teacher who lives inside many, many writers. This teacher—let’s call her Ms. Mullins—wants to see beautiful, flowing sentences, nix ellipses, and make sure there is nary a dangling participle in sight. She would never approve of a paragraph written almost entirely in bullet points.

Unfortunately, Ms. Mullins is not a marketer. It is her job to read essays. None of your readers are under obligation to read a single sentence, much less your whole perfectly-crafted, heartfelt letter, to see how brilliant it is. Several blocks of text with longish sentences may win a Pulitzer Prize, but they won’t raise your funds.

Definitely proofread like crazy, and never, ever get sloppy on your spelling. But if the text of your letter starts sneaking past the 1-page mark, just start asking, “Am I pulling a Ms. Mullins?”

You’re on your way to getting your fundraising mail on point. Now you need something to catch attention in the mailbox. When you’re ready for the right envelope to get your message heard, get in touch with us at Letter Jacket. We’ll even give you free shipping on your first order. We like you that much.

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