Should you spend time mailing out donation requests?

According to experts, yes.

You can expect 5 to 15 percent of your past donors to send you a donation after receiving a mailed donation request.

That rate will be lower for new mail recipients sourced from what is known as a “prospecting list.”

Growing your list of donors by periodically sending direct mail to prospects who don’t know your organization is also smart. About 1 percent of new mail recipients will donate to your organization. You can add their names to your main list of donors.

Direct mail response rates are climbing

Perhaps these rates seem low. However, studies show that direct mail response rates are rising every year.

People simply do not part with their money easily. They need to believe they’re doing so for a good reason. You can build an effective direct mail donation request program with a balanced strategy and a few best-practice tips.

Build an effective strategy

Paula Golden of the Broadcom Foundation recommends keeping a donor’s heart, head and head in mind when making a donation appeal.

  • Heart is the desire to contribute.
  • Head is the desire to contribute.
  • Hand is the capacity to give.

So, how do you convince your donors that your organization is worth it? To address their heart, tell them a compelling, true, heartfelt story. Get your message across in a few powerful words with one or two well-chosen images. Make them understand the passion behind the mission of your organization. Then craft a clear call to action to help donors understand how their donation will be used to help.

To appeal to a donor’s reason, or head, you’ll need to make a good case for your organization scientifically or statistically. Help your donor understand why your organization is the best in the world at its mission. Do you keep overhead costs low? Does your organization help more children get specific medical care than any other organization? Is your service unique?

Addressing a donor’s capacity to give takes a little longer. Research your donor or group of donors thoroughly. Ensure your appeal addresses their capacity to help your organization. It makes no senses to send a request for a large gift to a donor with a middle-income job and 3 kids currently in college. Brainstorm different ways a donor could give to your organization besides making a direct cash donation and include those ideas in a call to action for special donors.

Put it together successfully

When sending your fundraising postcard, use your non-profit’s brand consistently. A strong brand with images and colors that immediately call your organization to mind will build your donors’ trust.

Design your post-card to be read quickly using headlines, pull-quotes, bolded items or a p.s. statement.

Ask your donors for a recurring monthly donation. You won’t have to contact them as often and a structured donation can mean more funds donated over time.

Combine your direct mail request with a multimedia call to action. Ask for a donation to be mailed back to you, but give your donor an option to donate online or connect with your multimedia presence as well. Electronically savvy donors will appreciate this and you’ll get another chance to drive your message home to your donor in another format.

Get creative! Use postcards for more than a yearly donation appeal. offers 12 wonderful reasons to keep in touch with donors using direct mail postcards:

  1. Staying in Touch
  2. Giving A Progress Report
  3. Saying Thank You
  4. Demonstrating A Need
  5. Asking for Help
  6. Showcasing Your Success
  7. Sending Reminders
  8. Promoting Your Events
  9. Introducing Your Cause
  10. Raising Friends
  11. Prompting Year End Donations
  12. Providing Contact Info & Links

Seventy-six percent of consumers trust direct mail when making purchases. Plus, direct mail has a greater emotional impact than email. You can build on that perception of trust and use the powerful emotional appeal of physical mail to inform donors about your non-profit and boost donations.

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