Along with the signs of fall, you’re probably already seeing the first of the *annual appeal* letters appearing in your mailbox. I’m one of those geeks who makes a practice of collecting ‘em – and, yeah, I must confess that, for the most part, my collection provides examples of what NOT to do :). So here are a few tips for getting the most out of your annual appeal this year.
We’ll start with an email from one of my readers, Susan Vilardo, Executive Director of The Literacy Council of Clermont & Brown Counties writes:
I am writing to you from Clermont County in Ohio – very close to Cincinnati. I thank you so much for your Grow Report wisdoms. Your recent one made me laugh. The one about sending funders updates several times weekly, which was a typo. You wrote again to clear it up. For heavens sake! I knew you meant a “few times a year.” Were people actually hounding you about that? Oh goodness. I just shook my head for you on that one.
I do want you to hear that your emails give me inspiration. I am with a small not for profit and I often feel like I am all alone… your words often come at the right time. We help teach adults how to read and there are only two of us here. Everyone else is a volunteer.
So, thank you!!
Now, I wonder if you can settle a bull-headed argument with a board member! Is there anything out there that can validate a hand addressed appeal-letter mailing yielding MORE donations than those that are simply “non-lovingly” printed and sent?
I would sure appreciate your feed back.
Everything I’ve ever read and every study that’s been done points to hand-addressed envelopes out-performing printed. The objective here is to get your envelope opened, right? And, whoa, isn’t seeing your name correctly spelled and hand-written enough of an intrigue to get you to open an envelope?
On the other hand, how I answered Susan would depend on her particular factors. How big was this mailing? Would it be done in-house or using an outside service? Were volunteers or board members available to hand-address?
In response to my email, Susan wrote back:
What’s the size of your mailing list?
Nearly 1,000 pieces
Will you be doing your mailing in-house – or will you be using a service?
In house with LOTS of helper supports (very involved board members with connections)
Is your board available to help hand-address and write notes?
Not only are board members on hand but volunteers-a-plenty with enough pre-planning.
Once we get all hand addressed, I then have the ability to farm the whole mailing out to a school for people with disabilities that does bulk mailing. They have already stepped forward and offered to take the mailing from there – even to the post office. If this happens, our appeal letter is going to incorporate all of the helping hands that went in to the mailing of it.
Thanks to teachers like yourself, I am learning!!
Excellent! Clearly the Literacy Council has the resources to hand-address this year’s appeal and can and should do so.
But hey, wait a minute … BULK mail? Uh oh. As my friend John Lepp from direct response agency Agents of Good said: first class all the way, all the time… even the type of stamp you use can make a difference.
Susan wrote back to say:
As an addendum to your suggestions: it helped get the ball rolling for us and clear up some stumbling blocks. We are now pushing ahead with a first class mailing with a very special hand chosen stamp, hand addressing each envelope and having some of the letters even receive a hand-written note by a board member or the executive director.
Then, we are scheduling a “Stuff and Fluff” party over several days to get the mailing out in a timely manner. The air is playful and in anticipation of positive results. It helps that we have done several of these in the past but none with this much polish!!
Thank you again Pamela. Sometimes it takes finding that right “sounding board” to help inspire and bolster the confidence.
Kudos to Susan! I guarantee this year’s appeal will be the Literacy Council’s best yet!
Next up I posted a query to my Twitter friends for their number one best direct mail appeal tip ever and Jonathon Grapsas, the Regional Director for Pareto Fundraising in North America shared this excellent advice:
“Focus (obsess) on getting the data right. Ask for a lift on last year’s gift, and personalize your ask throughout the copy and response form. Then, focus on the SMIT (single most important thing) you want to tell someone, right now. Ideally focused on a story about an individual.”
Who’d have thunk so much profound advice could be contained in 140 characters? (Okay, Jonathon posted two tweets 🙂
He’s right. And, speaking from someone who spent most of her “job-job” life in small development shops – often preparing appeals on antiquated equipment, absolutely do-able with today’s technology. If your individual appeal is done in-house, for God’s sake figure out mail-merge and do it right. It’s well worth the extra effort.
What are your last minute annual appeal tips?