Thoughtless Mail Versus Thoughtful Solicitations 

Over the last year, we received 18 solicitations from a single charity this included in mid-September a big 9x12 envelope filled with holiday material. We got name tags, gift cards, thank you cards and holiday cards. A week after the envelope arrived a letter came reminding us to donate to say thank you for the envelope of stuff we didn't ask for in the first place.

I should point out that the gift that started this whole avalanche of mail was a tribute gift. Now any direct mail or individual giving manager will tell you that a tribute gift is a hard gift to renew. The person gave for a particular reason to a charity that is probably not one of their charities of choice.

Over the next few weeks leading to the end of the calendar year, we received a reminder about once a week. Some of these were cards, faux handwritten notes, and even odd sized mailers. All rather expensive to produce but I wasn't sure, so I asked a friend who does premiums how much a package like this would cost. She guessed that initial stuffed 9x12 envelope cost at least $1.25 per piece plus postage depending on how many they mailed.

When the year changed, I naturally assumed that we wouldn't be getting any more mailings. Boy, was I wrong! During the following year, we received 5 or 6 more ask letters.

Now, it is September again and can you guess what we got in the mail - this year's 9x12 envelope from the same charity filled with stuff. It has now been almost two years since we made the gift that started this whole avalanche of mail. We have not had contact with the charity and are not likely to make another tribute gift or any gift to them. But we are still on their acquisition list. How does this happen?

My guess as to why they still consider us likely prospects is that either the organization isn't cleaning and updating their list on a regular basis. I hope they are at least removing the people who do make gifts it wouldn't be very thoughtful for an actual donor to receive this type of package. Or that they use a service to do their direct mail solicitations and that vendor is more interest in producing billable products than in the non-profits reputation and bottom line.

I typically, mail once maybe twice to tribute donors and then drop them for my list unless of course, they respond. But what I am really curious about is how many people on this charity's acquisition list are like us? How much money did they waste on households that were never going to make another gift?

Now, they must be having some success or I would assume they would keep doing the mailings. Maybe the number of households like ours is negligible? But maybe they are not? Many direct mail professionals believe that non-profit ought to mail as frequently as they possibly can.

My experience says you should mail thoughtfully. By this I mean you should clearly understand who your prospects are and then mail the appropriate type and number of pieces. I also you have to know when to as they say "cut bait." Some people simply aren't going to make second gifts - especially donors that came to you through tribute gifts. How thoughtful is it to them to keep soliciting them and how thoughtful is it to your non-profit's bottom line.

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