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Direct Mail Fundraising Letters - 41 Things You Can Mail to Donors

Alan Sharpe

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Want to learn a lesson in direct mail fundraising from Winston Churchill? He once observed that a fanatic is “someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. "

A fundraising letter fanatic, of course, is someone who thinks the only thing you can mail a donor is a fundraising letter. But that's just one of more than 40 things you can mail to make friends and raise funds using paper and postage.

  1. Acquisition package: Designed to attract new donors.
  2. Welcome kit: An assortment of informational pieces and a cover letter, mailed to first- time donors, welcoming them to your organization and your cause.
  3. Thank-you letter: The most important letter in direct mail fundraising, and they should never ask for gifts.
  4. Renewal letter: Designed to persuade last year's donors to renew their support again this year.
  5. Member renewal letter: Mailed by member-based organizations to members whose membership is about to expire and must be renewed.
  6. Reminder letter: Mailed a few weeks after your appeal letter, encouraging donors who have not responded to give. Popular at year-end.
  7. Lapsed donor recovery letter: Mailed to donors who have not given a gift in 12 months or more, inviting them back on the train.
  8. Monthly donor conversion letter: Mailed to annual donors (those who respond to your annual appeals), inviting them to join (convert to) your monthly giving program.
  9. Special appeal: Mailed during the year to raise funds for a special cause, often an emergency, such as a natural disaster.
  10. Year-end appeal: Letters that capitalize on the year-end tax advantages and “spirit of the season" of Christmas.
  11. Upgrade letter: Appeals that invite donors to increase the dollar amount (and sometimes frequency) of their gifts.
  12. Donor club invitation: Letters that invite high-dollar donors to join a President's Circle or other exclusive donor group.
  13. Legacy gift prospecting letter: Mailed to a select group in your house file, asking if they are interested in making a planned gift (bequest, charitable remainder trust, and so on).
  14. Special event invitation: A card or letter inviting donors and potential donors to a golf tournament, banquet, concert or other fundraising event.
  15. Newsletter: Sent to current donors to inform them of how your organization is using their donations to change the world.
  16. Annual report: Usually mailed to major donors, loyal donors and donors with influence.
  17. Survey: Designed to solicit the opinions of donors and prospective donors.
  18. Petition: Mailed by advocacy organizations (Amnesty International and Mother Against Drunk Driving, for example) to donors, inviting them to complete and mail the petitions, usually to a person in federal government.
  19. Member-get-a-member letter: mailed by member-based organizations, inviting members to recruit new members to the organization.
  20. Pledge appeal: Usually sent during capital campaigns, these appeals ask recipients to pledge a larger-than-normal gift (for the donor, that is) towards the campaign, a pledge that is usually honored by the donor by making a number of gifts over a period of a year or two.
  21. Congratulatory card: Mailed to donors on the occasion of the donors’ wedding anniversary, birthday or other special event.
  22. Testimonial: Written endorsements from clients or donors or others affected by the work of your organization, usually accompanying an appeal letter.
  23. Plaque: Sent to faithful or particularly generous donors as a sign of your gratitude for their extraordinary support.
  24. Gift catalog: Describing through pictures and text the items that donors can buy from your organization to support your work (a goat for a family in India, for example).
  25. Resource catalog: Describes the books, DVDs and other educational materials that donors can order to educate themselves and others about your cause and the people you help.
  26. Matching gift appeal: Invites donors to give gifts that, collectively, match a large gift made by another donor.
  27. Newspaper clipping: Has your charity received favorable press recently? Mail a copy of the article to your donors (with the newspaper's permission).
  28. Quiz: Do you want to stir the imaginations of your donors, particularly if they are under the age of 12? Mail them a quiz that gets them thinking about a vital subject (climate change, poverty, nuclear war, homelessness, for example).
  29. Factsheet: Sometimes you need to give your donors statistics and facts and figures, maybe even a history of your organization. Put these into a factsheet.
  30. Special report: Dealing with a hot and timely topic that will galvanize your constituents.
  31. Calendar: Special calendar that highlights special events of yours and days during the year that are of interest to you and your donors.
  32. Special event teaser: Postcards or other short notices that pique the curiosity of your supporters about upcoming events.
  33. Photographs: Mailed to donors to show the before-and-after results of their generosity.
  34. Premium: Return address labels, notepads and other incentives designed to persuade the recipients to donate.
  35. Freemium: Items enclosed with a direct mail appeal that have no intrinsic value, but help you communicate your appeal in a tangible, memorable way. A hospital, for example, might enclose a facsimile of a patient bracelet once worn by a young cancer survivor.
  36. Involvement device: Scratch-off cards, checkboxes and other devices that involve the donor in meaningful ways and encourage a donation.
  37. Brochure: Shows in pictures and words what you cannot discuss in the body of your letter.
  38. Reprint: Has your CEO just given a speech to the United Nations? Transcribe the speech and mail it to your donors (assuming your CEO is a dynamic speaker, of course!).
  39. Progress report: Mailed to donors, usually major donors, who have designated their gifts to a particular project, and who need to be kept informed about your progress with their money.
  40. Follow-up note: Mailed after you've phoned your donor or made a personal visit, usually to thank the donor.
  41. Income tax receipt: The more of these you have to mail each year, the better, right?

About the author
Alan Sharpe publishes Direct Mail Fundraising Today, the free, weekly email newsletter that helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors. Alan is the author of Breakthrough Fundraising Letters and 25 handbooks on direct mail fundraising. Alan is also a speaker and workshop leader who delivers public seminars and teleseminars on direct mail fundraising. Sign up for Alan's newsletter at .

© 2007 Alan Sharpe.


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