Do you have any suggestions for the (post direct mail) reminder letter? I would love your thoughts on the letter as well as the donation form.
Thanks, Shannon Brown
Thank you for writing. Just so everyone is clear, we’re talking here about a “reminder letter” or “follow-up” letter that a non-profit mails a few weeks after sending out a major appeal. The reminder letter is mailed only to donors who have not responded to the first appeal, and “reminds” them about the need discussed in the earlier mailing, and asks them to respond with a donation. We are not talking about the typical renewal series that member-based organizations mail to members to renew their membership. (“This is your final notice: Renew today!”)
Here are my observations about reminder letters:
- In all of my years writing fundraising letters for non-profits, I have written reminder letters for only one client.
- Mal Warwick (How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters, Revolution in the Mailbox), Stephen Hitchcock (Open Immediately!), Benjamin Hart (Fund your Cause with Direct Mail), Roland Kuniholm (Maximum Gifts by Return Mail) and other direct mail fundraising experts have little or nothing to say on the topic.
- Reminder letters are usually mailed by non-profit organizations that mail only once or twice a year. Any organization that mails six, eight or more times in any 12-month period could not send reminder letters because the reminders would arrive in mailboxes days before the next appeal.
- Reminder letters are most effective when the donor has a plausible deadline to meet, such as year-end or the conclusion of a capital or special campaign.
If you’re going to mail a follow-up mailing, I recommend the following:
- Don’t mention in your first letter that you will be following up with another letter
- Keep the letter shorter than the one that it is following up on
- Mail the reminder letter in a different envelope
- Tell the donor that the letter is a reminder, that you have not heard from them, and that you need them to respond
- Re-iterate the case for support
- Say something original (don’t just repeat the first letter paragraph for paragraph)
- Go for the emotions
- Give the donor a deadline for responding, and give a reason for that deadline
- Write the reminder letter when you write the first one
- Use the same reply device or donation form, but print across it in bold letters LAST CHANCE TO RESPOND or something similar
- Mail the reminder letter to your most faithful and most generous donors
- Decide early on who will not receive the reminder (likely donors whose anticipated gift is not large enough to make the reminder mailing cost-effective)