Why Some Fundraising Direct Mail Stories Don’t Work

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It’s simple, but oh so subtle.  Here is the litmus test:  ask yourself  if the donor is in your story after you complete the first draft of your next solicitation.  Why?  Because we talk a lot about passionate  storytelling being the key to better response rates in your direct mail solicitations.

Personal stories of one person’s situation can be very good at explaining and educating, but that doesn’t mean that they will compel readers to act. For that to happen they have to see themselves as an essential part of the story, as if something won’t happen unless they act.

In other words, in stories that compel action, the donor can change the ending of the story with his or her actions.

Here are 4 ways to do this based on why people give:

1-to feel happy – “You’ll not only be supporting our work, you’ll know you changed a life.”

2- to feel important – “Give today to become a member and get insider info and updates.”

3- to feel like part of a success story – “We saved the savannah elephant.  We can save the Asian elephant too.”

4-because everyone is doing it – join Tim T. in Brookfield and Jim R. in Oak Park who are already committed to our fight.


In other words, in stories that compel action,  donors can change the ending of the story with their actions.

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True or False? Trees Are Being Destroyed to Produce Catalogs and Direct Mail Pieces


False:  Trees are not direct mail.  Printed communication is direct mail, but trees?  No!  Let’s get this straight once and for all so we can lay to bed this myth which we’re asked about from time to time.  Sustainable forestry throughout North America has grown the amount of forested lands significantly in recent years, providing a steady, responsible supply of fiber used to make paper.  Trees are harvested and replanted on a continuing basis .  In fact, we have more forests in the United States than we did 50 years ago and about the same forest land in the U.S. as we had 100 years ago (U.S. Forest Resource Facts and Historical Trends).  Old-growth forests are not harvested to make direct mail paper, and the marketplace is beginning to “certify” paper that originates from sustainably forested lands.



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6 Direct Mail ?’s that Can Improve Your Nonprofit letters

1.  Does your letter speak to the values your donors use to make decisions?

2.  Do you use the same language your donors use?

3.  Is what you are saying credible and verifiable?

4.  Does the tone of your letter speak both to the emotional and intellectual needs of your donors?

5.  Does your content pull at the heart strings?

6.  Is your letter as persuasive as it can be?


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11 Strategies for Increasing Annual Fund Donations

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1.  Tell real stories.  Donors want to know how your npo is serving others, so give an example.

2.  Until they donate, send 3 mailings a year.   Once they donate, ask again before the 9-month umbrella closes.

3.  Send a thank you letter within a week.

4.  When asking, be specific.

5.  Personalize, personalize, personalize with data, text and graphics for best RoMI.

6.  Personalize the response device for better accuracy on your end and convenience on the donor’s end.

7.  Use a stamp , not your indicia or meter on these personalized communications.

8.  Always use a courtesy reply envelope.

9.  Repeat or summarize the letter’s most important message in the P.S.

10.  Targeting your message to segments = best return on investment.

11.  Analyze your mailings.

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USPS Plans to Give OK to Allow Mailer Logos and Marks on Permit Indicias

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The United States Postal Service is planning to allow commercial mailers to include logos, trademarks, brand images or other kinds of marketing designs in the permit imprint indicia area of their mail.  This will allow for immediate recognition of logos, products or promotions while boosting the visual impact of the mail piece.

It is expected that the offering will be available by June 24, 2012 for commercial mailers of presorted 1st-Class letters and cards or Standard Mail letters.  This should provide customers with advertising opportunities without impacting required indicia information on the mail piece.

Your input is requested:  Will you be willing to pay the expected 1 cent (for 1st-class letters and cards) and 2 cents (standard mail  letters) for this premium placement of your logo on your indicia?





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