For the most part it is prompted by a concern that mailing too often will cause ‘donor burn-out’ or create a negative reaction. And it’s a perfectly acceptable question to raise – because no-one wants to upset their donors.
So let’s look at what might constitute a typical annual direct mail programme aimed at existing donors:
Only your four renewal mailings, and your major donor mailing would have direct ‘asks’ plus a donation form and a reply envelope. Each of these mailings would also be ‘themed’ with a specific project or seasonal reason for the donor to support. So they wouldn’t just be ‘yet another letter asking for money’. Each would recognise the donor’s past support and would add a compelling reason for why you’re approaching them again.
The two newsletters (and the major donor newsletter) would, as their main purpose, provide feedback to donors. However, they would contain a response device with a low key ‘ask’.
And the addition of just that response piece with what we term a ‘soft ask’, will ensure that you receive sufficient income from the mailing to cover the entire cost of the newsletter.
In fact, income from a well produced newsletter will often produce donations equivalent to double the total production and mailing cost.
The major donor newsletter is the only one that might not contain this reply envelope as these folk are already giving very generously and, as the list is likely to be a small one, the cost of sending them a newsletter is not great.
If you’re still a bit skeptical about the number of mailings that I am recommending, then think about these three fundraising truths:
In summary, you probably could, and certainly should be mailing your donors more often than you are at present.
But you should be doing so with an intelligently planned and well-constructed programme that incorporates plenty of feedback and acknowledgement of their support. And, finally, don’t forget to show them how their money’s being put to excellent use.
With acknowledgement to the late Terry Murray in The Ask of Asking + 60 More Fundraising Tips and Trends.