Experience the Impact: Direct Mail Fundraising
You can’t build a house without a foundation. And it’s difficult, if not impossible, to build a successful, national fundraising program for your organization without utilizing direct mail: the foundation of fundraising. Of course, a modest fundraising effort can succeed without direct mail. You can solicit friends and acquaintances in person for financial support. You can put up a website and/or Facebook page and hope that enough folks will find you and donate to your cause. And with good advertising you can put on a successful fried chicken dinner in your local VFW hall. But without the use of direct mail, you will not only miss out on a very important stream of revenue for your worthy cause, you will also fail to maximize the impact of all the various forms of fundraising.
Direct Mail Makes Other Fundraising Avenues Possible
A direct mail program will allow you to identify high dollar donors, individuals who have made surprisingly large gifts through the mail. These individuals are excellent prospects for making much larger contributions when personally solicited. Direct mail donors have been known to make gifts in excess of $1,000,000 when personally solicited.
Direct mail will make it possible for you to advertise your special event to individuals who have already shown that they support your cause. It will enable you to target individuals on a geographic basis so that those individuals most likely to attend will be the ones who receive an invitation. It will help you identify the individuals who have the financial wherewithal to participate in your special event.
Direct mail will provide the funds to hire a professional grant request writer and to underwrite the costs of special programs or projects you wish to launch.
Direct mail will show you who is really committed to your program by identifying multiple givers who are great prospects for your deferred giving effort. And, direct mail will even locate telephone numbers and e-mail addresses so you can strengthen your relationship with existing donors.
Direct Mail is No Panacea
Like all fundraising mediums, direct mail is no panacea. It costs too much and it takes too long. In spite of those two weaknesses, direct mail is the most cost efficient means of generating tens of thousands of donors of all amounts from across the nation. Once they join your supporter base, you will be able to count on them for continued support for many years into the future. And it’s from this base that your organization will be able to successfully utilize other fundraising avenues. To sum it up, a successful direct mail fundraising program will not only bring in substantial sums of net revenue for your organization and increase the number of supporters, it will also lay the foundation for successfully utilizing all six of the fundraising mediums outlined.
Common Fundraising Avenues
What are the various forms of fundraising? The following describes some of the fundraising avenues frequently used by organizations in the United States.
This is when a friend, acquaintance, or representative of an organization you have previously supported meets with you to ask for a donation. A personal solicitation is, without a doubt, the most powerful means of soliciting a contribution from a prospective donor. A personal solicitation has the highest chance of success and it will typically generate a gift much larger than can be obtained through any other fundraising medium. Of course, in order to be successful it requires you to have previously identified the prospective donor as someone who is likely to support your cause. Moreover, given the size of our nation, it is impossible and financially prohibitive for you to visit every prospective donor to your organization, even if you were to know who to visit.
Whenever you are asked to purchase a ticket or otherwise financially participate in and attend a dinner, a live auction, a cocktail party, a ball, or some other unique event that benefits a cause in which you believe, you are participating in a special event. Special events can provide a few thousand dollars or even several hundred thousand dollars to an organization. They can be exciting and enjoyable for all participants, and they can provide vital support to worthwhile causes.
It’s great when a foundation or even the government provides a large financial grant to an organization. Grants can be very large and be used for some very important projects and programs. But grants don’t just happen. It takes months of effort and often reams of documentation before your grant request will even be considered. And frankly, unless you hire a professional grant request writer, the odds are very low that you will receive a grant. Most foundations already have their favorite organizations and you must first get on their radar screen and then move up their ladder before you ever get that first dollar. And when that grant comes, you can almost certainly expect that it will be a restricted gift. That means you can only spend the grant funds on a specific project or program for which the grant was given. That doesn’t mean you should not go after grants, but don’t assume that it will be an effortless, cost-free process.
Websites, E-mail and Social Media Fundraising
Having a website is a great idea, but often it’s like opening up a store front and hoping customers will drop by. Be sure you have plans to drive prospective donors to your website. E-mail, Facebook and other social media allow you to reach out to prospective donors or current supporters. Make sure you have the technology expertise and know how to open up a merchant account so the prospective donor can make an on-line gift with his credit card.
Cruises, Trips, etc.
Lots of major organizations invite donors to join cruises and travel on trips to exotic locations. This is a great way to get to know your high dollar donors better, but the truth is that few of these cruises or trips generate any net revenue for the organization. The real purpose of cruises and exotic trips is to build a lasting relationship with your high dollar donors so that your personal solicitations for large gifts and for deferred giving will have a greater opportunity for success.
Seeking out bequests and getting your organization included in wills and estates is a vital part of any sophisticated, long term development effort for an organization. In the next thirty years an unprecedented amount of funds will be transferred to organizations from individuals who have included these groups in their will or estate. A deferred giving program is something every organization should seriously consider. The only catch is that getting included in wills and estates is a time-consuming, costly effort, and the money won’t come to your organization for years to come. It is something you should do if your mission will continue into the future, but it’s not a starting point for any fundraising effort.
Clearly the list provided is not exhaustive. Some organizations sell tee shirts and bracelets in order to raise funds. Still others hold raffles and conduct telethons. Others use telemarketing programs to raise money for their worthwhile causes. The opportunities for fundraising by your organization are nearly endless, but the six approaches described are quite commonly used by small and large organizations alike.
You can’t build a house without a foundation. And it’s difficult, if not impossible, to build a successful national fundraising program for your organization without utilizing direct mail: the foundation of fundraising. Of course, a modest fundraising effort can succeed without direct mail. You can solicit friends and acquaintances in person for financial support. You can put up a website and/or Facebook page and hope that enough folks will find you and donate to your cause. And with good advertising you can put on a successful fried chicken dinner in your local VFW hall. But without the use of direct mail, you will not only miss out on a very important stream of revenue for your worthy cause, you will also fail to maximize the impact of all the various forms of fundraising.
Direct Mail—The Foundation
In short, direct mail fundraising is truly the foundation from which all other forms of fundraising develop. It is the foundation upon which great, successful, comprehensive fundraising efforts are built. It is the core which makes it possible for you to not only raise substantial sums of net income, but also…
- Locate high dollar donors
- Create successful special events
- Find the best prospects for your cruise
- Launch grant request efforts
- Drive prospective donors to your website
- Identify deferred giving prospects
- Acquire telephone numbers and e-mail addresses
And most important of all, direct mail is the one fundraising medium whose usage is not cost prohibitive. Our agency offers a no-risk test mailing program to pre-qualified organizations and no client of ours takes money out of their operating account to fund their program. The direct mail programs funds itself. If it does not, then we are not the right agency.
In summary, no home can be built without a foundation and no fundraising effort should commence without the benefit of direct mail fundraising – it is the foundation upon which all great fundraising programs are built.