Get Your Share o’ the Green

Everyone has the luck of the Irish today.  In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we want to share with you – our friends – some of the easiest ways to get a bigger share of the green this year.  These tips are simple: you are guaranteed to get more green by doing less.  Here’s how:

Mailing smaller is often smarter.  

It’s time to send your list out to the mail shop for the next appeal … but not so fast.  You know there are groups of donors on the database that don’t perform as well as others – and likely some that don’t perform at all.  If you have segmented your database in past appeals by recency, frequency or dollar range, and tracked the contributions, it’s time to review the results by segment.  If you see that some segments are not covering their cost – those are the first to go.  Are there some segments that just break even?  If this is an expensive appeal – those are next to go.  

If you have never sliced and diced your data into different groups for analysis – don’t fret.  It’s generally safe to include donors in your appeal who have made a gift within the last three years.  If you’re not sure, try that select of donors this time and see if you can get a bigger pot of green by mailing less.

Ask for less money.  

I know, it seems kind of crazy because you’re trying to make as much money as you can.  But it works!  Too often, organizations start their suggested ask amounts at $100, $250, $500 or (gulp) $1,000.  Sure, we know some donors give at the higher levels, and you may be getting a $100 average gift or higher.  But those amounts are too high to use as a global ask for all donors.  If you start the ask amount too high, you will turn off many donors who cannot give that much.  

Chasing the high average gift at the expense of your response rates diminishes the total dollars you can raise.  It can also negatively impact donor retention.  Review the largest groups of donors you have – probably those giving $35 or $50 – and make your first ask amount in that range.  The $100 donor will still give you $100, but you will get more participation at $35 and $50.  In the end, you will raise more money and increase donor retention.

Simplify your reply form to boost response.  

Too often, the reply form (or remit card) becomes over-crowded with everything we’d ever like to know about our donors: name, address, phone, cell phone, email, how they heard about us.  And we often include every option to give: in honor, in memory, monthly, designated and matched gifts.  Whew, it’s an exhausting array of choices!  

If this sounds like your reply form – stop.  Go back to the basics and stay focused on what you are trying to achieve – a gift.  The reply form has simple goals: to restate the case for support and provide your donor with clear instructions on how to give.  Anything on the reply form that extends beyond these goals is distracting your donor, and should be eliminated (or at least tested to ensure it’s not hurting response).  We almost always find that too many check-off boxes and requests on the reply form result in fewer gifts.  

If something works well – do it again.  

Seriously, you can send exactly the same mailing, email, or story a year later.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that donors will remember what they got in their mail boxes last October.  (Do you?)  And, don’t feel like it’s cheating.  If a donor appeal works well one year, it will certainly work well again the next year.  There is no reason to reinvent the wheel!  Aren’t you a smart little leprechaun?

Tell your donors what they want to hear – not what you want them to know.  Most likely, a donor was introduced to your organization because he or she made a connection through a story of a homebound senior whom you help. 

Maybe it was through a volunteer, or a direct mail letter that included the story of a homebound senior, or perhaps they saw a clip on the evening news of someone being helped.  So when you talk to donors via mail, email, newsletter or other vehicle, remember to include what they want to know about most – how you help people.  

Sounds simple, right?  But it’s easy to get off track.  Do not include a long laundry list of all the programs you have.  Tell them about one person who was helped by one program – preferably Meals on Wheels.  We have found that fundraising letters including other agency programs nearly always generate a lower response rate and lower average gift than a letter that focuses primarily on the meals.  

If you only use one of these tips in your next mailing, I’m sure you will add more to your pot of green.  If you try to use all five this year – you’ll surely have a pot of gold!