Soliciting Leadership Gifts with Direct Mail
Direct mail can be a highly effective way to solicit leadership gifts. The key is to make the package feel special. First and foremost, it should stand out and look important. Using a first-class stamp and thicker paper stock or investing in good writing and design can go a long way. It may cost you more to produce, but a look of class and excellence will pay off. Some institutions even send their most important leadership appeals inside Priority Mail envelopes so that they will be noticed and opened.
Making reference to one’s past giving or recent campus involvement or including handwritten notes at the bottom of the page can also help to make an appeal seem more personal. Whatever it is, ensure you do something to make your most important appeals stand out and show the recipients that your institution recognizes them as leaders.
Oregon State University views its leadership annual fund appeals as a way to strengthen their pipeline and prepare the next generation of major gift donors. Each year, they send personalized direct mail pieces to each of their annual fund leadership gift prospects. Resembling a proposal that would be presented to major gift prospects, the package contains all the basics—a thoughtful cover letter, a full-page response form with suggested gift levels, and a reply envelope. As an added touch, the materials are held together with a gold paper clip and inserted in a hand-addressed and hand-stamped booklet envelope.
The quality of the package is so high that when prospects receive it they know they are part of an exclusive and important group. It makes them feel special. The mailing raises over $180,000, with average gifts of over $2,400 and a response rate of over 10 percent. One prospect responded to the appeal with a $25,000 gift.
Leadership gift donors are some of your most important constituents, and the way you go about asking them to increase or renew their support can be a delicate process. No doubt, the most effective way to solicit a leadership gift is through a face-to-face conversation. However, when that’s not possible, customizing your direct mail appeals with personal touches can go a long way toward making those donors feel important and helping to guarantee that your message stands out and generates your desired response.
This article has been adapted from the book Ideas for Annual Giving by Dan Allenby. Copyright (c) 2016 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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