In these uncertain times, your relationships with major donors are more important than ever. Without them, it’s unlikely that you’d achieve nearly as much for your organization and its mission. Regardless of your cause or the size of your organization, major donors are extremely important—and keeping them engaged is vital.
Luckily, there are amazing options for maintaining these relationships even during the pandemic. Direct mail has been a fundamental aspect of fundraising strategies for years. Even as our society shifts toward virtual giving, direct mail remains the single greatest source of donations for nonprofits in the U.S. annually.
When it comes to maintaining strong relationships with your major donors, direct mail has many advantages. Direct mail appeals forge a personal, emotional connection with their recipients. Not only do they serve as a vehicle for a compelling story, but a piece of mail is a physical reminder that your organization is still doing the work of your mission.
Direct mail should be a key component of your major donor fundraising strategies. We’ve created a guide of key steps for incorporating direct mail into your major donor fundraising efforts:
- Incorporate data-driven fundraising asks
- Host a capital campaign
- Work with a direct mail platform
- Thank donors profusely
Direct mail will serve you well in each step of this process, and we’ll make sure you know how to best leverage it as you go about planning major donor fundraising. Let’s get started!
1. Incorporate data-driven fundraising asks
Successful nonprofits use data to assess the effectiveness of their fundraising and track trends that help inform future planning. Every donor is different, and your communications should be tailored to what you know about their giving patterns and behavior. Data is critical for maximizing the success of any fundraising campaign, and there are many donation metrics to use to track effectiveness.
With major donor fundraising, for example, you’ll want to look into donation metrics such as gift size to identify your major donors and create direct mail appeals tailored to those individuals.
A nonprofit database can serve as your record of fundraising results, and you can easily filter out major donors and focus on them. You shouldn’t communicate with your lower-level and high-value donors in the same way—which is why segmentation is extremely important.
Another way to use your nonprofit database to your advantage is to identify matching gift opportunities. Your fundraising research tool will gather information regarding donor prospects’ employment status and employer, which can help you identify the businesses with employee matching gift programs. If you aren’t seeking out matching gift opportunities, you’re missing out on additional donations that can be secured with little extra effort.
To generate your fundraising data, you should select the system that is best suited for your organization and its goals. If you plan to use direct mail as a main channel of communication, then it’s smart to work with donor management software that integrates direct mail fundraising in your strategy—like GivingMail CRM.
For example, let’s say your software data indicates that Bob has been consistently increasing the size of his gift every year in response to your annual direct mail appeals. If he gave $1,000 last year, then you know it is appropriate to request $2,000 in this year’s direct mail appeal. Customization is advantageous in any fundraising strategy approach, and your wealth of fundraising data will help you achieve this level of personalization.
2. Host a capital campaign
Capital campaigns are fundraising efforts that aim to raise a specific amount of money to build out your organization’s assets and facilitate growth. Money raised through a capital campaign can fund the development of projects like new buildings, renovations, and equipment, or even increase your endowment.
Direct mail can help you fundraise by connecting with your donors on a personal level. It strikes a chord with your donors by putting a tangible object into their hands that reminds them of the work of your organization and its mission.
Direct mail will help you through every phase of your campaign—from getting the gift to sending a ‘thank you.’ Send personalized direct mail appeals to people who have shown particular interest in your organization–they might want to support your capital campaign. And capital campaigns, like any fundraising initiative, bring in more when you thank your donors. Your donor management software can be set up to send direct mail thank-you letters immediately after a gift is received and recorded.
3. Use a direct mail platform
Nonprofits have limited time, resources, and money, seize any opportunity to save, which is why it’s a no brainer to invest in a direct mail platform.
Dedicated nonprofit vendors, including GivingMail, have years of experience with tasks like printing, packing, and mailing appeals. They’ll swoop in and lift the burden of the logistics off of your shoulders. With the time and money you save, you can devote your energy to achieving your goals.
When selecting a direct mail platform, here are some critical criteria to focus on in picking the best provider:
It comes down to your organization’s specific major donor fundraising goals. The criteria for each organization will no doubt differ, but one thing is for sure: the power of a direct mail platform will maximize your organization’s fundraising potential through direct mail.
4. Thank donors profusely
The generosity of your major donors should be acknowledged. It is your duty as a nonprofit to express gratitude to the donors who make your mission possible.
Thanking your donors should be a priority. It builds good donor stewardship, and major donors are more likely to prioritize their giving to organizations that recognize their generosity.
Check in with your donors to see how they’re doing with a ‘thank you’ rather than an ask. Thank-you letters in the mail show the recipient how much you value their support and your mission would not be possible without them.
But good stewardship doesn’t stop at a thank-you note. You can pursue other creative ways to thank your donors, like video thank-you’s or small gifts related to your mission. Another way to show your appreciation for your donors is a donor recognition wall. It’s a concrete way to honor and acknowledge the generosity of the major donors who support your organization.
Put just as much time into thanking them as you do asking them for gifts–gratitude goes a long way toward ensuring continued support. You’re strengthening the bond with your donors, building trust, and providing them reasons to continue giving to your cause.
Your major donors are important, and the strategies staying connected with are equally important. From the ask to the thank you and beyond, your major donors need special care and attention. Tactics and tools like donation metrics and direct mail platforms will help to attain meaningful relationships and deliver the good stewardship that your major donors want and deserve.
Direct mail is a powerful asset for your fundraising success. It’s been a best–and effective–practice for so long for a reason. Even though fundraising strategies vary between organizations, direct mail is the backbone of successful large scale fundraising.
About the Author
Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.