Five Maples’ Fundraising Blog

Letters raise more money than Self-Mailers

In the past year many of our clients have tried using a self-mailer instead of a letter as an annual fund solicitation. The results? No better…and mostly worse! In the last few weeks I’ve even heard words like disaster and worst result ever. Not good.

Here are the results from one client who mailed to lapsed donors going back 12 years and to patients from the previous nine months.

Graph comparing letters vs. self-mailing envelopes.

This is just an example. It’s not that letters always work better, but there is a clear trend in favor of letters based on our clients’ results.

Here are five reasons that might make the difference. Some are suggestions our clients have offered to explain why the self-mailer they spent so much time designing underperformed. They ring true, don’t they?

  1. People give to people. Letters are personal. Send a self-mailer and you’ve become an organization, a corporation—not a person. Letters are from a person to a person. Letters feel more intimate and engage the emotions in a way that a self-mailer can’t.Letters have a salutation. Don’t underestimate the positive effect of addressing your potential donor as Dear Jane or Dear Mr. Jones! Letters have a chatty, informal style. Or at least they should if they were written to raise money!In a letter it’s easier to use the five key words you must use to raise more money.
  2. Letters are seldom used by retail marketers. Self-mailers are used to sell a product, announce an event, promote a candidate. Letters are associated with bills, giving, personal messages. The donor who cares about your cause is giving, not buying. So, use a letter. (To avoid the bill association use a closed face envelope—no windows.)
  3. Story telling. Letters are a better format for telling a story. Stories tap the donor’s emotions, bringing home the value of your organization’s work. A picture in a letter can enhance the message. That provides the visual communication designers are reaching for when choosing a self-mailer design.
  4. Letters are less busy. Readers scan. The format of a letter works to move the eye quickly from the salutation to the PS with brief stops at highlighted key phrases. As opposed to busily-designed self-mailers, the letter produces more engagement in less time.
  5. A self-mailer looks expensive, whether it is or not. Some donors will ask: Why are they spending my money on this slick piece?

Of course, it helps to know how to write a good fundraising letter. Want some pointers on how to do it? Read some of my blog posts on this website, or download my letter-writing check list.

Need help getting out your spring fundraising appeal?

Whether you need lists, data-work, printing and mailing, or help with writing, design and editing, we are ready to help you! Call me at 800-437-7780 ext 104, or Email Me Today!


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