5 tips for raising money by direct mail

October 3, 2013 | By Kyle Baccei

The first day of the Direct Mail School was a busy one for attendees yesterday. The training is the second half of the Leadership Institute's Comprehensive Fundraising Training -- a week-long bootcamp on raising funds.

Below are the big lessons I got from each speaker. The last round of updates will be here tomorrow.

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The right lists won't guarantee success, but the wrong list guarantees failure.

Emily Lewis, the president of Lewis and Company Marketing, led off the first day of the Direct Mail School. She explained how and why direct mail fundraising works for organizations.

Other key points:

--> 75% of your new donors may come through direct mail.

--> Direct mail empowers conservatives because it allows you to bypass media gatekeepers.

--> People give because they want to shape a better future, share a purpose, get involved, and enjoy a special status.

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You should invest in prospecting if you have enough time, have enough potential donors, and have enough startup funds.

Kevin Allen, Chief Operating Officer at The Richard Norman Company, explained to attendees how donor prospecting -- i.e. contacting new, potential donors who have not yet given to you -- can help you build your donor file.

Other key points:

--> Prospecting protects against file attrition, can advance your goals, helps you identify high-dollar donors, and can reactivate lapsed donors.

--> Avoid prospecting if you won't risk losing money, if you don't have enough potential donors, or if you're not committed to mailing your house file, i.e. the donors who already give to your organization.

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Know as much as possible about your donor list(s).

Rita O’Neil, president of the O’Neil Marketing Company, spoke next to attendees of the Direct Mail School. She talked about donor lists and the benefits of acquiring, borrowing, and trading them.

Other key points:

--> Your donor list is your most valuable asset. Treat it that way.

--> Donor lists have drastically different values depending on the relationships you have built (or haven't built) in the past.

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Always give your donors credit for the good that is being done.

Heather Sherlock, Donor Relations Officer at the Leadership Institute, and Jacquelyn Monaghan, Development Assistant for Major Gifts at The Heritage Foundation, spoke together on a panel to teach attendees how to build relationships with their donors.

Other key points:

--> Keep a running list of accomplishments to share with your donors. Tell donors specifically what their gifts are funding.

--> Five ways to show you care about your donors: love what your organization does, pay attention to the details, give your donors special treatment, engage resistance, and go above and beyond what is required.

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You can't control everything. Control what you can.

Rick Hendrix, Founding Partner of ClearWord Communications Group, shared his thoughts with attendees about scheduling mailers and analyzing your direct mail results.

Other key points:

--> Direct mail is an art and a science. The art is package and design. The science is the schedule and testing.

--> Put yourself in your donors' shoes. What will be there to distract them? What holidays are coming up?

--> Make sure you ask yourself these questions: what is the response rate? What is the average contribution? What is the return on investment? What is the cost to acquire a donor? What is the long-term value of a donor?

Kyle Baccei is the Communications Manager for the Leadership Institute. Follow him on Twitter (@KyleBaccei).