Every nonprofit wants to know when they should schedule their direct mail appeals. There is no hard and fast rule as this can vary drastically by the type of organization you work for—academics vs. animal shelter vs. food pantry—but here are three helpful tips:
- A 2012 report by Blackbaud showed organizations receive more than double the amount of donations in December as any other month. December giving accounts for more than 17 percent of all donations. Fall through the end of December is generally considered the most generous time of year. Timing a direct mail appeal to land in constituent’s mailboxes during this time frame is important, but keep in mind that, while this is a generous time of year, it is also the most competitive for nonprofit giving.
- Tie the timing of an appeal to an important organizational event that supports those you serve. An end-of-fiscal-year appeal because it’s the fiscal year-end means nothing. However, an appeal sent in May, before the start of a summer reading initiative, stating, “Give by May 30 to provide scholarships to up to X students in our summer reading initiatives” gives your letter some immediacy. If you are holding a fundraising event in February, consider sending an appeal letter to those who are unable to attend, giving them a window in which to add their gift to the total raised by attendees while building the case for your needs.
- Some donors enjoy recognition for their giving, so don’t overlook timing that coincides with stewardship and recognition events. If you annually recognize donors reaching new cumulative giving milestones at an event, a well- targeted, highly selective appeal sent to donors nearing those milestones can be successful. State your case for support, how close they are to the next cumulative giving milestone and your excitement in publicly honoring their generosity in the near future. A signed appeal sent to 50 such individuals at a nonprofit organization I worked for garnered a 50 percent response rate and more than $30,000 in fiscal year-end gifts (the fiscal year was not mentioned in the letter). That’s an average gift of over $1,000!
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