If you mail a hundred letters asking for donations, and five people send a check, then …
What percentage didn’t read that four-page letter — a letter that’s WAY too long in the opinion of many?
I think it’s safe to say that 94% didn’t read it. About 95% didn’t even open the envelope.
Of those who responded, I’d speculate that 80% read every word. And 20% of responders didn’t need to read it, since they were ready to cut a check anyway.
Of those hundreds mailed, how many said “no” to your appeal.
If you had the right list — a group of people who support your organization — NOBODY said “no.” At worst, a half dozen got into the envelope and said “not right now” … meaning not this month or even not this SECOND … put the letter aside and never got back to it.
When you mail to people who have supported your organization, you’re writing to people who support your cause. They don’t really need convincing about your mission. Yet most will nonetheless need a lengthy communication about why you need their help RIGHT NOW. That’s why longer letters usually work.
If they don’t support your cause, no amount of persuasion will bring forth a gift. They don’t care!
Prospecting mail is more the crapshoot. Chances are fair that you’re mailing to lapsed donors, even if that’s not your intent, especially if you’re in animal welfare or environmental action or any other over-crowded giving arena.
Yet even if you’re hitting everything right, people who’ve given to very like-minded causes, you face that 95% who never open the envelope. Not because they’re not interested. Not because they’re saying “no” to you. Instead because it’s been a bad day, they’re in a hurry, kids are eager to get out the door, gotta do this that or the other.
So, if even half of those who OPEN the envelope send a gift, you’re breaking records. And you must have enclosed a great letter, that persuaded them of your credibility and urgency.
This rambling is inspired by a reflection on one of my own recent donations to a mail appeal. I became a first-time donor to ANERA when the mail package arrived at the perfect moment. I’d just seen a presentation by a couple of friends who’d recently returned from a year in Ramallah Palestine. I don’t want to get into any finger-pointing, but the situation for Palestinians is desperately bad. And I’d not seen much in the way of targeted relief that didn’t have a political edge to it.
Along comes an appeal from ANERA: “Improving Lives in the Middle East” … a general positioning that seems to dodge all politicization. The group serves refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Jordan. All people exiled since 1948. Ok, I’ll hazard a guess that these are all Palestinians.
The ANERA letter was compelling, taking four pages to explain their mission and build my confidence in their abilities without hitting any sour notes or blaming any group for the situation. They’re seemingly a wholly non-politicized mission in the most dangerous mess of religious and political animosity. It all looked great, as did their web site, even their Charity Navigator review. (I don’t usually check the latter, but did here because the group boasts of their ranking on their gift forms.)
I wonder which of my past donations put me on a list that brought them to me. I’ve donated to Jewish groups, and there’s a growing contingent of US Jews who find the occupation very disturbing. That’s a possible. Beyond that … Gifts to groups like Save the Children? I’ll probably never know.