You’re busy now, getting those appeals ready for the most wonderful time of the year. I know how crazy it can get. But don’t forget the role good data and personalization play in your success or failure. I’m amazed at how many “Dear Friend” letters I still get. Even smaller organizations can make their appeals personal – and increase their results!
Practice good hygiene. Spend the time to be sure your information is correctly captured, categorized and entered. You’ll save time and raise more money later. Review your lists regularly. When it comes time for an appeal, review the lists again. Make sure all necessary fields are filled in. Double check salutations.
There’s no faster way to say “you’re just a name on a list” than getting that name wrong.
If you find empty fields, set those records aside. Don’t include them in the mailing until you’ve done some research. If they’re donors, you probably have their information somewhere. Check the correspondence in your hard files. If you can’t find anything, try Google. I like to look for other organization’s annual reports or donor lists. In a smaller community, you might also be able to run the information past a board member. A few smart searches can often turn up useful information.
Getting names right is so important if you’re trying to build relationships! Here’s an example. At one organization, we knew a lovely couple whose formal names were Nelson and Helen. They never said anything when we addressed them that way. But when I arrived, I knew from my work at a former organization that they really went by Skip and Jo. At the next event, they seemed more relaxed when their name tags had their preferred names. Imagine if your friends always called you one name and strangers another. Which category do you want your organization to fall in?
Of course, we can collect much more than names. Just don’t edge into creepy. (Have you seen those Facebook ads that pop up after you’ve visited another site to window shop?) If you’re approaching donors who don’t have much of a tie to your organization, using little touches in your letter can bring them closer. You can refer to their town and how your organization helps people there. Or if you know one aspect of your work excites them, you can focus your ask on that work. That’s data you can use to bring donors closer.
Merge into effective fundraising
I know. It’s easier and a less expensive to send one generic letter, addressed to “Friend”. It used to be that using variable merges was very expensive. You couldn’t manage it in-house. (Anyone else remember dot matrix printers?) But hello, 2014. You can easily merge letters and print them, even in-house. Or if you send them to a mail house, they can do so at low cost. Is it worth it? Do you even have to ask?
Research shows one of the first things your donor will look for when she reads your letter is her name. Response rates for personalized mail – or email – are significantly higher. It’s worth it.
Lots of missing information when you review your list? Or are you unsure of the way your donors would prefer to be addressed? The best way to fix that is to ask them. Try including a question about how they’d like to be addressed in a welcome package. If they’ve already been giving, include that question in a donor survey.
And remember assumptions are dangerous. I can’t tell you how many organizations have decided I must be “Mrs. Husband’s LastName”. I am most emphatically not. Never changed my name, never intend to. And it rankles to be reduced to Mrs. Someone Else. If these organizations had bothered to ask (or even looked at the check), they’d know that. And their appeals might not end up in the recycling bin.