Think of this article as a Primer on direct mail in the non-profit world. As much as experts like to say that a non-profit is like a business, it’s really not. I like to call it a business with a heart.
Every non-profit organization that relies on individual donors practices some form of Direct Mail fundraising. After all, there is a limit to how much information you can convey to your donors face-to-face, by phone, or over the internet. You can’t have an intimate lunch with every single donor. That’s why direct mail comes in handy.
Fundraising letters are by far the single biggest means used by non-profits to recruit non-donors. Time and again, surveys reveal that letters proved the means for most donors to make that first gift or become a member of a non-profit organization.
Direct Mail in the non-profit world is complicated, costly and requires incredible attention to detail. It’s hard to create the perfect fundraising piece, it’s hard to justify to your board and volunteers that direct mail fundraising is a process not an event.
By far, the most important aspect of any direct mail fundraising campaign is the list of people you mail to. Mailing an effective package to one list can easily raise ten or twenty times as much money as mailing the same package to another list.
There are hundreds of lists to choose from, ranging from general contributor lists to more complex lists where you can select the type and number of donations made.
A note of caution – make sure you are dealing with a reputable company so you actually receive what you think you are asking for.
The list industry is very sophisticated. There are ways to take your existing donor file and expand it by modeling your donors and taking households with similar characteristics. Hence, we call these “lookalikes”.