I have never responded to a direct mail appeal.
While I am embarrassed and I feel guilty that I haven’t been practicing what I preach, I’m sure that many other fundraisers have also never picked up a pen, filled in the donation form, enclosed it in the freepost envelope provided along with their gift, and popped it into the nearest letter box.
If you fall into this category, I encourage you to give it a go today.
Though we may not represent the traditional charity audience, going through the process of donating by mail a very interesting exercise.
1. I kept the letter and donation form for TWO months
In the back of my mind I had already decided to respond to the letter I received on April 15th. And though I received two appeals since receiving the first one, I kept the first front of mind by leaving it on the floor of my office.
What insights can we gain from this?
- People are probably reminded by subsequent mailings and waves. This includes donor care and stewardship communications
- It is important that each mailing and wave has its own appeal code and that each gift is recorded against the specific form they respond to
- I felt guilty about having not donated every time I saw the letter in my office. Remember, your supporters often keep appeals, sometimes for many months. Don’t be afraid to reference those appeals and the stories they contain. Tap into the decision to donate which many of them may have already made
- Guilt is the fundraiser’s ally. Your objective shouldn’t be to induce guilt – the guilt is already felt by your supporters who wish they could do more.
Your objective should be to give supporters the opportunity to feel good about what they can do to help
2. It felt like a chore to get up and find a pen and my credit card
Don’t underestimate the amount of effort involved in responding to an appeal. To get someone to take action and get up off their chair, your letter must be very motivating. Effective creative is crucial.
I also kept getting distracted by things. Which is also an insight into the challenge of working from home…
3. I had to enter another room
Fundraising has many associations with psychology but there is one I hadn’t come across until I started to fill in this appeal: What happens when a donor enters another room?
- It’s known as the “Doorway Effect”, and it reveals some important features of how our minds are organised:
…a woman meets 3 builders on their lunch break. “What are you doing?” she asks. “I’m putting brick after sodding brick on top of another,” sighs the first. “I’m building a wall,” is the simple reply from the second. But the third builder swells with pride and replies: “I’m building a cathedral!”
- The important point here is CONTEXT. Provide your supporters with a tangible reason to give and show them a vision of what they are about to help build and they will be more engaged, and less likely to succumb to the doorway effect.
4. Filling in my credit card details was a challenge
I am not a neat writer.
- I found it incredibly difficult to write my credit card number in the tiny boxes
- I also worried that because my AMEX has 15 numbers instead of 16 whether I needed to put the numbers in a particular format
- I overcame these doubts and I wrote as neatly as I could but…
…how many of our 75+ supporters struggle with charity forms?
- There was barely enough room for my name and signature. Thankfully my name is reasonably short. Are we discouraging people with long names, married couples with joint accounts or people with hyphenated surnames from completing donation forms. I suggest we are
- I chose “My choice” but when I wrote in my give amount there wasn’t enough space to write all the zeros (not really, but a longer line is better)
5. Did I feel GOOD about responding to the appeal by mail?
The only time I felt like I was doing good was when I actually wrote the gift value onto the donation form.
- This could give some insight into the difference between donors who tick the value boxes and those who write their own amount
- The extra action that is involved in writing your own gift amount could point to a more engaged and therefore potentially more loyal supporter
Has anyone ever analysed the behaviour of those who write their own amount vs those who tick one of the ask prompts?
6. On the way to the post box…
I had always thought that the act of walking to a letter box and posting a gift to my favourite charity would be part of the feel-good process. Now I’m not so sure.
I didn’t feel connected to the charity when I put the letter into the box. In fact, the first time I passed the letterbox I completely forgot that that was what I went outside to do.
For me, the most important learning from this exercise is that keeping the donor’s attention is critical. And I mean at every point in the process – from fetching the mail, while reading the letter, getting the pen and credit card, filling in the form, putting it into the BRE and right up to the eventual action of walking to a letterbox.
If, like me, your supporters are the most actively engaged and connected with the process while physically writing their details and ticking donation boxes, what can you do to your appeals to improve them?