8 reasons your direct mail appeal didn't work (Part 3)

By Wayne Gurley

3. You wrote about something your audience cared about, but you wrote it in such a way that it bored them to tears.

Sure, you can have an exciting and motivating message.  But you can write it in such a way that makes your audience yawn and want to throw it in the trash can. For example…

  • You can include a lot of statistics, which are deadly in direct mail.

  • You can write using the institutional “we,” which comes across as cold and impersonal.

  • You can brag about what your organization does or has done, instead of bragging about what the donor has done to help you achieve your goals.

  • You can use big words, long sentences and long paragraphs.

  • You can write at a college reading level, instead of a 6th-grade reading level.

  • You can try to change the way your donors think, instead of meeting them where they already are.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc. All rights reserved.


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8 reasons your direct mail appeal didn’t work (Part 2)

By Wayne Gurley

2. You wrote about something your audience didn’t care about.

Many times an organization will pick a copy theme THEY think is important for their organization to talk about. However, it may not be something their donors care much about.

To be successful, direct mail appeals must be “donor-centric.” The copy theme needs to be something that will resonate with donors and motivate them to give.

Remember: It’s all about the donor and what THEY can do to change lives and help you achieve your mission, not about your organization or what you might think is important.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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8 reasons your direct mail appeal didn’t work (Part 1)

By Wayne Gurley

1.  You mailed to the wrong audience.

Your mailing list is the single most important element for success in any direct mail appeal. A letter that might have worked gangbusters for some other organization may fail miserably for yours.

At the risk of sounding obvious, your active donors are your best audience for a direct mail appeal. Next best is lapsed donors (those who haven’t given in at least a year).

Keep in mind that the further you get in time from a donor’s last gift, the worse your response will be. With most of our clients, we can’t go out much past five years from the date of a donor’s last gift.

Ideally, you’re going to want to acquire new donors while you’re going to the effort of preparing a direct mail appeal. So your prospects should be more than just “suspects.”

A good prospect list will include people who are the correct age for fundraising and have more than a casual relationship with your organization, or match closely with your existing donor base (as in the case of an affinity-oriented rented list).

Hopefully, they also will be philanthropically inclined and direct mail responsive, too.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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12 Ways to Annoy Donors and Prospects (Part 12)

By Wayne Gurley
President & Creative Director

12. Asking for a gift that’s too high – or too low.

Asking for an inappropriately sized gift will result in only one thing – absolutely no response at all.

Ask for too much, and instead of giving you something less, your donor won’t give anything.

Ask for too little, and you may get a gift, but it may also result in “downgrading” a donor that might have given you more if you had asked appropriately in the first place.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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12 Ways to Annoy Donors and Prospects (Part 11)

By Wayne Gurley
President & Creative Director

11: Leaving your location, address, phone number and email address off your website’s home page.

I can’t tell you how many nonprofit websites I’ve visited that don’t have the organization’s location, address, phone number and email address on the home page.

In many cases, the web designers make you work very hard to find it.  Sometimes you can’t even tell what state the organization is in.

Many organizations make it difficult to find their foundation’s “give now” pages, along with names, phone numbers and email addresses of the people who are responsible for fundraising.

These development personnel seem to be hiding from their donors. They don’t want to be found or contacted. I realize they may be hiding from spammers, but they’re also hiding from their donors, which isn’t a good thing.

What if someone wants to make a big gift to your organization and wants to talk about it,, but cant’ find the right person to call or email? They might just give up and give that money to another organization.

Don’t hide from your donors.  Make it easy for them to find and contact you.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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12 Ways to Annoy Donors and Prospects (Part 10)

By Wayne Gurley
President & Creative Director

10:  Leaving your return address, web address and phone number off your reply slip.

(Sarcasm alert:) Believe it or not, some people don’t hang on to the deathless prose in your letter, or the carefully designed outside envelope with photo, graphic and teaser copy.

They often throw these pieces away after they’ve seen them, and only retain the reply slip.

Sometimes they toss the reply envelope or BRE, too. So if you don’t include your organization’s physical address on the reply slip, how will they know how to send it back to you?

If you don’t include your phone number or web address, how can they call or visit your site to get your physical address or instead make an online gift?

What if they have a question about your organization and there’s no way to contact you?

Make sure your pertinent information is on every piece in your direct mail package.  Every piece.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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12 Ways to Annoy Donors and Prospects (Part 9)

By Wayne Gurley
President & Creative Director

9. Acknowledging a donor’s gift inappropriately or not soon enough.

Be sure and acknowledge or thank a donor for his or her gift within 24 – 48 hours of its receipt.

If the gift is small (under $10), a receipt is perfectly acceptable. Anything above $10 or $15 should probably be acknowledged by a letter.

Bigger gifts, generally starting at $100+, should get a letter and/or a phone call from someone at the organization.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.


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12 Ways to Annoy Donors and Prospects (Part 8)

By Wayne Gurley
President & Creative Director

8. Using a pre-printed indicia on your outside envelope instead of a live stamp or meter imprint.

This is a close cousin to the previous post (#7). A pre-printed indicia tells the recipient “this letter isn’t very important, or we would have spent a little more money on a live stamp to send it to you.”

Aways use a non-profit live stamp if you can. If not, then use a really good-looking meter imprint which is almost indistinguishable from a first class meter imprint. The stamp will probably work better, though.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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12 Ways to Annoy Donors and Prospects (Part 7)

By Wayne Gurley
President & Creative Director

7. Using a mailing label on your outside envelope instead of personalizing it.

Nothing screams “junk mail” quite as loudly as a mailing label on a fund-raising letter.

If you can’t afford quality personalization on a closed face carrier, then use a window envelope.

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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12 Ways to Annoy Donors and Prospects (Part 6)

By Wayne Gurley
President & Creative Director

6. Using “Dear Friend” in a personalized letter instead of “Dear [First Name.]”

If you can’t determine an accurate salutation in a personalized letter (such as Mr., Ms., Mrs. or Miss), then just use Dear “First Name” instead of “Dear Friend.”

Some organizations don’t like this because it seems they’re being too familiar with their readers and wouldn’t call them by their first name unless they really knew them personally.

But to me, “Dear Friend” is highly impersonal. I almost never use it unless I’m not using personalization at all. In my view, accuracy is more important than being overly familiar or too personal.

Using “Dear [First Name]” is the most accurate way of personalizing when you don’t have an accurate salutation. (And don’t use Mrs. or Miss unless you’re sure of a woman’s marital status. (Ms.is broadly acceptable for a woman whose marital status is unknown.)

Copyright 2019 Allegiant Direct, Inc.

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