Year-end is upon us and not quite the Holidays, and so my mailbox is full of solicitations from worthy charities I support (and otherwise). As a fundraising consultant our practice spends considerable time working with our clients on direct response giving programs (direct mail, telefund, online, etc) and so it is always a treat for me to spend an hour or two considering the stack of letters. I collect them in a large stock over the course of the fall and go through them all at once, sipping dark roast coffee, and examining each for strength and weakness, and finally selecting 5-7 for contributions of exactly $100.
Why $100? We all give differently and for different reasons but I’ve decided that a meaningful gift to something where I am not directly involved as a vendor or board member is $100.
$100 to me is a still a good chunk of cash. I enjoy $100 bills and having at least 5 $20s in my billfold, and can remember more than once in my life when I’ve been down to my last $100. If it is an organization worth supporting, it is worth supporting for $100 – otherwise better for me and the organization not to bother.
Why? Suppose I make instead 15-20 $25 gifts – this would be that each organization I support in 2013 will never ever want to let go of me as a donor and will spend and spend to renew my support. So it is $100 or to the recycle bin.
As an aside, I rarely (like most of you) write out checks these days, paying my bills online and using my bank card whenever possible. The notable exception is when I sit down and make my annual contributions. I enjoy the ritual of writing out a check, naming the organization and a sum, putting into action in my own small way a personal investment to community. Jumping online with a credit card and a paypal giving page just doesn’t feel the same. And I dislike paypal – it feels just too weird still. Perhaps my advancing years.
So what have I supported this year? Mostly organizations where I’ve supported in the past and where I have a personal relationship of some sort, either directly with a staff member or where I have personally witnessed the good work and/or see direct personal benefit. I’ve been asked before by donors on where they might direct their support and I always suggest local investment is best.
In part two of this post I will describe my giving choices this year, and why I’ve chosen some organizations over others and in part three I will break down critical elements of a successful DM piece. For now, some consideration of best practice having read through about 30 fundraising letters in recent days…
- Is there Urgency? This is where most organizations need to pay the most attention. Why should I give today? What pressing deadline, opportunity, challenge, success can be immediately linked to my giving today? Direct mail is all about creating urgency. Give. Today. And yet most of our organizations fail to communicate in an immediate way.
- Is there Personalization? Of course I would love (and occasionally receive) a personally written note of praise from a CEO or other staff member for my investment and demonstrating where my support has helped prior. One of my favorite letters every year is from the Harrison Center, where an intern or someone underlines examples and hand writes little affirmations onto each letter. I dig it.
- Is there a specific call to action? I dislike the church style envelopes where you fill out the back flap with the name and address. A much more effective option is to acknowledge how much I gave last year and suggest I might invest a bit more to take advantage of something timely (back to urgency).
I would encourage you to take a closer look at some of those fundraising letters you get in the mail this week, and consider your own $100 investments in community.