Know Who You’re Mailing

Know Who You’re Mailing
Date Published
Kerry Bracken

We all know that what is good for one is not necessarily good for all: “Different strokes for different folks.” This is especially true in the world of direct mail fundraising. If you are going to ask someone for financial support, and that individual has donated to your organization in the past, it is in your best interest to include details ─ build on the relationship you already have; don’t treat your donor like a stranger!

I don’t know about you, but I am a big online shopper. So much so that sites that I frequently shop send me emails that say – since you recently purchased this skirt for $30, we thought you might like this dress for $45! This “suggestion” is something that they are categorizing as similar, or sharing certain characteristics, of my previous purchase. The price point is right around what I previously spent. I get these emails about twice a month. I make a purchase about once a month.

What. Just. Happened? Retailer XYZ just called me to action and by golly I answered! I bought the thing I didn’t even know I needed. Why? Because they know me! Or at least they are trying to get to know me. They took the time to look at what I purchased, when I purchased it, and how much I spent on it, only to turn around and send me a message so enticing and with details that apply directly to me. That is how it is done my friends!

You must tailor your message to different groups, but how do you determine the group? There are many ways that you can segment donors, but let’s start with the basics of recency, frequency, monetary value.

Recency: Has this donor given in the last 12 months? If so, acknowledge the most recent gift, thank the donor, give specific details on how you used the most recent gift and then include a reminder that it would not have been possible without the donor’s ongoing support.

If this individual has not given in the last 12 months, reengagement is key. Be courteous and conscientious – if the donor is recently lapsed explain that the membership recently expired and it’s time to renew – make this a reminder.

If the donor is long-lapsed say that it is time join again. Review what has happened since the last contribution, express that the donor is truly missed, and be clear about what you need now – and why.

Frequency: Does this donor give each month, each quarter, annually? If it’s one gift of $100 once a year, it makes complete sense to say hey – instead of giving this one big gift, why don’t you break it down to payments of $10 per month on an ongoing basis? If the donor says yes, you would now have consistent dollars coming in each month, increased annual giving from that donor to $120, AND an improved chance that the donor will retain by making them an auto-renewal.  

Monetary Value: Look at this donor’s gift history. If someone has consistently given a gift of $25, the next time you reach out to that person, it wouldn’t be wild to bump that $25 up and ask for $30. On the other hand, if a donor is recently lapsed your ask will be focused on maintaining – if the amount was $25 in the past, let’s get the donor back onboard with another $25 for now. What you don’t want to do? Ask for less! Don’t make the mistake of undervaluing your mission. What is that saying – shoot for the moon?! OK, OK …. Don’t stretch too far!  

So, there you have it. Go forth and talk to your donors like you know them – they will be happy to see that you’ve paid attention to them and generosity is sure to follow.

About the Author:
Kerry Bracken
Manager, Production Services, Agency Services

Years in the Industry


Role at the Company

I partner with my clients to achieve their fundraising goals through the planning, development, and execution of their direct mail and digital programs. As the lead editor of the bimonthly PBS newsletter, I eagerly delve into the exciting programming being highlighted throughout the course of the year.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I’ve always enjoyed volunteering my time to organizations and helping those in need. What excites me about my work at AFG is that every day I am helping a variety of organizations reach their goals one day at a time.

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

I would be traveling the country seeing live concerts and attending sporting events… 311 at Red Rocks or the Patriots at Heinz Field… I’m in!


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