Woman Writing_1280.jpgMost non-profits are running Direct Mail programs, in some form or another. With the growth of the internet, Direct Mail for non-profits was predicted to decline. But the opposite has happened – Direct Mail is stronger than ever. Of course, Direct Mail still faces some serious challenges, but a good Direct Mail program provides a great deal of stability for non-profits.

Regardless of the type of Direct Mail program you choose for your non-profit, there are two major, but often overlooked challenges that non-profits face in Direct Mail programs. These are: acquiring a second gift and reactivating lapsed donors.

I want to discuss two fundraising techniques that will help address these challenges.

But first why is getting a second gift so important?

A lot of people talk about the lifetime value of a donor, and I’m uncomfortable with that because I don’t know what their lifetime will be. What is important is their second gift and when they give it. The donor who gives a second gift within the first year on your list is more likely to give a third, a fourth, and a fifth gift.

A person who never gives a second gift can’t give a third, fourth, and fifth, so that second gift is a milestone. The second gift says this is a person who’s really with you.

(Click here to see other challenges non-profits face.)

So how can you secure the second gift?

Fundraising Technique #1: The (Prompt) Thank you

Anytime someone gives you a gift, a Thank You Letter should be sent promptly, ASAP, within a week at the most. A prompt thank you letter acknowledging a donation is a fundraising best practice. A technique that is often forgotten though is another ask in the thank you letter. This may seem greedy but it is not. The most likely time for someone to give a second gift is soon after they have given a first gift.

We often include our second ask in the P.S. of the “Thank You” letter. (Remember, everybody always reads the P.S.) The P.S. might say something like, “If this is a good time for you to consider another gift to XYZ organization, please use the reply coupon below to send in your check for $50.”

We have found, without exception, that every client who’s enlisted this fundraising technique brings in more money than it cost to send the “Thank You.” Essentially, this program transforms the “Thank You” into a positive revenue item, where the donations exceed the cost of doing “Thank You” mailings, even when the quality is upgraded.

We have found with our clients, that a “Thank You” program that effectively, professionally, and skillfully expresses gratitude to the donor for their contribution and asks for another gift is very appealing to the donor. They don’t see it as greedy, but as another oppurtunity to give.

If the second gift comes as a result of a “Thank You” letter, that “Thank You” solidified their desire to join you and gave them a sense of being appreciated. The “Thank You” letter can produce a second gift soon after the initial gift, increasing the likelihood that this donor will support you time and again over a period of years.

Fundraising Technique #2: Re-activating Lapsed Donors

In Direct Mail fundraising what constitues an active donor is a frequent topic of discussion. What does “active” actually mean? While there are a variety of answers to that question, a common agreed upon definition is, those donors who have given within the last 12 months.

Donors who last gave more than 12 months ago are considered lapsed donors. Recency is an important metric in fundraising. A person most likely to give again is someone who’s given recently. Someone who hasn’t given in a long time is much less likely to respond to a new appeal.

Lapsed donors are still an important part of your file, but you know that they’re not giving as responsively as those who’ve given within the last 12 months.

What can you do about lapsed donors? Try to reactivate them by rekindling their enthusiasm for your organization and its cause, resulting in a new gift, putting them back onto your list of active donors. How do you get that new gift? We at LDMI generally use one of two methods for our clients.

The first, most common method used to reactivate a lapsed donor is to send them a “Why Have You Forsaken Us” (WHYFU) letter. This letter confronts the donor with the fact that they have not made a donation in a long time. The letter discusses the fact that they are a vital part of the organization, that the cause still needs their help and support, and gives them the opportunity to give again. These WHYFU appeals can be scheduled to be sent as soon as your donor passes the twelfth month of no gift.

The second method that we have found to be successful is to send lapsed donors a recent successful prospect package. This reactivates donors by repeating the experience they had when originally becoming a donor. The easiest way to do this? The next time you mail prospect acquisition mailings, include lapsed donors.

You should always compare the results between the two methods of reactivation, but typically, we have found that sending a prospect package to lapsed donors is more effective than sending a WHYFU appeal.

We have found that a proper thank you program and a proper lapsed donor reactivation effort are two fundraising techniques that make a great addition to your Direct Mail program. Try them out, and see what you find.


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