4 Common Direct Mail Fundraising Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Donor segmentation can help nonprofits build a stronger path forward.
Date Published
Ashlee Gay

In our recent post sharing insights from the Allegiance Fundraising “secret shopper” study, we put together 5 tips for improving your donor acknowledgment program. This time, we’ve compiled a list of the 4 most common direct mail fundraising mistakes we found in our study with tips on how to avoid them.

1. You don’t say thank you.
Two of the nonprofits in our secret shopper study failed to send a donor acknowledgment. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We covered the importance of sending a thank you letter in a recent blog post, so be sure to check it out if you need tips on how to improve your acknowledgments. Suffice it to say, if you don’t send a proper thank you, the first gift someone makes could likely be the last.

2. Your letter is hard to read.
Your letter copy should be large enough for everyone to read without difficulty. Make sure you include enough white space to aid readability, and don’t be tempted to cram everything on the front side to save on printing costs.

One of the nonprofits in our study sent an appeal with 11-point font, half-inch margins, and the entire page filled with text. Yikes!

3. You don’t send a follow-up.
When you don’t send a follow-up to your direct mail campaign, you’re leaving money on the table. Literally. A follow-up will typically raise an additional 40 to 50 percent in gross revenue. So budget for at least one follow-up appeal (try calendar year end) and send it three to four weeks after the initial mailing. Your bottom line will thank you.

4. Your mail campaign isn’t timely.
You’ve spent months planning the perfect end-of-year appeal. You’ve written the perfect copy, designed the perfect appeal, and you have the perfect list segmentation strategy to maximize your year-end giving. And then your appeal arrives in mailboxes on January 2…

It happens! In fact, two of the nonprofits in our secret shopper study had their end-of-year appeals arrive in our mailboxes after the end of the year. Talk about a wasted opportunity!

Make sure you put as much thought into your campaign schedule as you do your copy and creative. Allow plenty of time for production and delivery, and remember that the mail volume in December is heavier than normal, so it may take a little longer for your mail to hit mailboxes.

Have you fallen victim to any of these common mistakes? If so, we hope you’ll consider the advice here and look out for other Allegiance Fundraising blog posts for more suggestions on how to maximize your fundraising program.

About the Author:
Ashlee Gay
Director, Digital Fundraising, Agency Services

Role at the Company

My primary responsibility is to work cross-functionally to execute day-to-day digital marketing and fundraising efforts within AFG. I also work closely with J.C. (VP Digital Fundraising) on the design and implementation of AFG’s internal and client focused full funnel strategy.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love being a slice of the team that helps clients reach their goals in the digital space! A client’s marketing deserves more than digital duct tape; it deserves the many tactics that we have at our fingertips. It’s my job to help identify a solution and strategy to implement a client’s vision; having fun along the way and making a positive impact!

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I enjoy anything outdoors! The beach, hiking, kayaking, 4-wheeling, camping, snowboarding…you name an outdoor activity and I probably love it! I also have a “healthy obsession” with the New England Patriots, college basketball and country music!

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