Seven ways to strengthen your fall direct mail appeal.

I could always count on my mother in law to be the first to announce that fall is in the air. At times the proclamation came when spring had just slipped into summer. But it is mid August, and for many nonprofits that means the direct mail package is about to go to print. Before you sign on the dotted line of the press proof, iStock_000021567117Smallask: What, precisely, do I want my reader to think, feel and do in response to this package?

Jot down your answer on a piece of paper. Then ask a friend or colleague (preferably someone from outside your organization) to read the package and ask her what it makes her think, feel and want to do.

If the appeal gets less than an A+, strengthen it by being more intentional about the content (thinking of the three points above) and by:

  1. Giving the reader a reason to open the envelope and a reason to give to your organization and cause.
  2. Making the donor, not the charity, the hero or main character of the package.
  3. Editing the writing so it’s clear and easy to understand. Here’s good advice on keeping it simple.
  4. Being specific about the need / opportunity and how the money will be used.
  5. Including a strong and direct ask for a donation.
  6. Sharing heart touching stories that bring to life the central message of your appeal.
  7. Using images of people rather than things. People look at people.

Of the points above, I would linger most on the first. If the envelope isn’t opened. It’s over. Invest time to think through the cover lines and design. Your message needs to catch the reader’s attention immediately. Give them a reason to open and read. There are lots of worthy causes out there. Why should the reader give to your cause? Satisfy that question and you are likely to have a successful appeal. When I write appeals, I begin with the assumption that the reader doesn’t care about the cause. It’s my job to help them see the light.

So, as summer slips into fall, I encourage you to evaluate your direct mail package, be your own hardest critic, and sign off with confidence.

Enjoy the last few days of summer.

For more on crafting a direct mail package, check out:

Eight tips for writing a fundraising letter
Sofii’s direct mail showcase

Febe Galvez-Voth

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