When it comes to direct mail fundraising, it’s also the most unrewarding.
One of the questions I get asked most frequently when speaking at conferences or Fundraising Pharmacy training sessions is why I always recommend multiple mailings in a year. It’s not just people I meet who are new to direct mail or fundraising who ask. It’s a question that many seasoned fundraisers ask, too.
Effectively their queries boil down to this:
“Why not just send one highly effective and efficient appeal each year and be done with it?”
Seems like a great idea at first blush. We’d save staff time, mailing costs (and those pesky project consulting fees).
But years of testing and data analysis tell us that the most effective approach is more involved. Why? Well, when it comes right down to it, it’s because we are working with humans.
It’s difficult to get people’s attention, even loyal donors.
This is both good news and bad news.
First, the bad news…donors aren’t always paying attention to what we send them in the mail. And not every appeal theme or issue appeals to all donors. This is the “Right Ask at the right time” mantra that direct marketers live by. We have to send multiple appeals with multiple offers in order to capture as many people’s interest as possible.
And as Liz Rejman at Museum London also emphasized in a recent discussion on this very topic, “sometimes when we ask, it may not be a good time for a donor to make a gift or they may intend to donate and forget.”
Liz is bang on. Like a lot of things in life, timing is key! And since we can’t possibly time a single appeal to work for every single donor, sending multiple appeals is the best way to maximise your revenue and (even more important) maximise the number of donors that will stay current.
Now here’s the good news…
It’s actually a good thing that the one-perfect-mail-piece doesn’t exist. Because what we’ve learned over the years is that many donors will make more than one gift in a year. It stands to reason. They are passionate about the work you do…you share multiple ways their gifts can make a difference… some donors will decide to help more than once.
In fact, most organisations with mature direct marketing programs see an average of 1.3 gifts/donor/year.
This is very good, not just for the extra revenue from those 0.3 gifts, but also because the donors that send more than one gift in a year are a very valuable segment. They tend to be more loyal, more receptive to upgrading their giving, more likely to become monthly donors and much more likely to name your charity in their will.
Like so many things with direct mail and direct marketing fundraising, what at first appears to be inefficiency is actually an investment in the overall donor relationship and the attendant increase in fundraising revenue over the lifetime of your donors.
You can rest assured that sending multiple direct mail solicitations every year will help you raise the most funds in both the short and long term. Just make sure you add at least one or two stewardship pieces to keep donors informed and in love. And also put processes in place to ensure donor preferences can be honoured (IE: for donors who wish to receive only one solicitation mailing per year).