Posted October 15th, 2018

Consultant’s Corner—Tips for Making Your Donor Communications More Effective

Aviva BoedeckerBy Aviva Shiff Boedecker

1. Make the most of your budget. Frequent mailings to low-priority or far-future donors about estate gifts can be an unwise use of resources. Thoughtful selection of your mailing lists will save you money on printing and postage.

Bonus 1: You will automatically use staff time more efficiently because you will be spending more time with your primary prospects and less time with lower-priority donors.

Bonus 2: When those low-priority prospects do become old enough to be high-priority estate gift prospects, the information will more likely be fresh and interesting to them.

Bonus 3: You may even save enough money to do an extra mailing or event—or even to attend a professional development program.

At Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sue Dishart segmented her donor files even further, sending special supplemental mailings to subsets of GDB’s planned gift prospects.

2. Vary your communications. Sue uses a periodic newsletter, a smaller self-mailer and occasional letters with brochures and digital communications, depending on subject matter and other factors, to reach her prospects. Other clients sometimes use larger-format postcards along with their primary printed communications. And yes, do use electronic and social media as a supplement to (not a substitute for) traditional mail. It is an efficient and inexpensive way to reinforce the message of mail with those who received it, and also to reach a broader audience.

• How to diversify methods of communication: Some pieces should be longer (newsletters) and some could be in a more concise format (brochures). Use different formats, such as a self-mailer, and offer different ways to respond—reply cards and envelopes with newsletters and brochures, tear-off cards with self-mailers or other “stand-alone” pieces such as a planned giving overview piece or legacy society brochure and direct those who are more technologically oriented to your website.

• Custom designs can help differentiate your message and reinforce the importance of your mission.

• Guide Dogs for the Blind follows up each mailing with an eblast to a larger list, which serves to remind people of what they already received and allows those who may not have been in the group that received mail to request information while also drawing attention to the website for those who prefer to access additional information in a digital format.

• Don’t shoot yourself in the foot! You’ve gone to the trouble of drafting and designing your communications and selecting the right mailing list. Make sure that your audience will actually be able to read it! Use a font type and size that will be readily legible to older eyes, and be careful about using reverse type and light-colored ink, and placing text on top of screens.

3. Talk with your donors and prospects on the phone or in person when possible. Print and electronic media is foundational for many if not most organizations. It is important, where possible, however, to cultivate personal relationships using the most cost-efficient means. This can be a key to completing more gifts. (See “Tips for donor meetings” in the article “Tommy, Can You Hear Me?” by clicking here.) ■

Aviva Shiff Boedecker is a Senior Consultant with SHARPE newkirk.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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