Every nonprofit’s goal is (or should be) to have direct mail fundraising packages that deliver good results every time they’re mailed — for years and years. In prospect mail, this is a package that can be rolled out to larger and larger quantities with each mailing and still performs well. In your house file mail, this is a package mailed annually at about the same time each year. We call these your “control” packages.

But even your most successful direct mail packages can be improved through creative testing.

We were recently looking for a way to beat a monthly gift package we’ve been mailing to a client’s house file for a decade. This control package showed a First-Class stamp paperclipped to the letter, and the opening of the letter, through an oversized window on a 6”x9” carrier envelope.

While this package has been successful for years in acquiring new monthly donors — beating other format tests — it is expensive because of the First-Class stamp and the handwork needed to paperclip the stamp to the letter.

In our latest test, we mailed this control against a closed-face 6”x9” envelope on which an image of the stamp and the beginning of the letter were printed. The test package still contained a First-Class stamp, but it was affixed to the return envelope, which is done by machine and is less expensive than hand-affixing with a paperclip.

To keep costs down, we made minimal changes to print similar components together that could be used for both packages. This package had a pre-printed blue circle of the words “First-Class stamp” with an arrow pointing to the stamp. But since the stamp wasn’t there in the test package, the text of the beginning of the test package letter was changed accordingly.

Since the primary goal was to bring in new monthly gift donors, not short-term net revenue, analyzing the data on new monthly givers would be a key component in evaluating the results of this test.

The Results

The test package raised more gross revenue, had a higher percent response, and tied with the control on the overall average gift.

When it came to monthly gifts, the test package brought in about the same number of new monthly givers as the control, but the test package monthly donors gave a higher average monthly gift.

These results, combined with the fact that the test package was less expensive to produce, means that the test package dethroned the long-running control package.

Not every test will result in a winner, but if designed properly, every direct mail test will yield useful information. Package and component tests, even for packages that have been successful in the past, are essential for a successful nonprofit direct mail program.


For help with developing your next fundraising campaign, contact LDMI today.