Guest Post by Lisa Maher, student in Nonprofit Management at NYU

Lisa Maher

Last December I asked you, dear readers, to participate with me in some experiments regarding the types of communications we receive from nonprofits after donating. Lisa Maher decided to participate by putting together a list of organizations she has always donated to and then tracked the direct mail she received from those organizations. Lisa shares some of her findings with us in this guest post.

When Kivi suggested on her blog back in December of 2010 to conduct an experiment on the types of direct mail solicitations received, I jumped at the chance to help. Her blog has always been chock-full of helpful, pertinent, and insightful information, and I thought this experiment would be a great learning experience. As a student at NYU in non-profit management, I was excited to gain some additional knowledge in the field and put that into practice.

In January I made a list of all of the organizations I donated to in 2010 (note to self: it was great to be so proactive come tax-time!). Looking at this list of roughly fifteen organizations, it was pretty easy to see that I am an environmentalist and animal lover.

I eagerly waited for direct mail or e-mail solicitations to come in and really put this experiment in action. I will note that I got quite a bit of mail, but nothing made me feel like it was specifically targeted or segmented to my previous donations.

Until, I received a letter from the Marine Mammal Center that asked to donate on behalf of their “Urgent Care Fund.” I felt as though they hit the nail on the head. The photo and envelope cried out for me to open it. And, the letter inside felt personal and was chock full of poignant stories.

Letter from Marine Mammal Center

Around the same time, I received a piece from Best Friends Animal Society which blew me away. As you can see from the envelope, the playful dogs are outside and surrounded by the beauty of Utah’s red mountains. I felt like they knew I had just come back from volunteering and was literally looking at pictures of my trip when they sent that. Interestingly, according to a recent study, Best Friends was voted the most-trusted nonprofit name brand in the country (read the article here).

Letter from Best Friends Animal Society

This exercise has reinforced that a personal, heartfelt message is incredibly important. The two pieces are visually incredibly different, but both were effective in their purpose. It also shows that there is no “right answer” in crafting a successful appeal.

Needless to say, I’ve donated to both organizations again. Both of these pieces were heartfelt, and both made it seem as though they were speaking directly to me. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen too often, NYU isn’t cheap, and I have tuition bills to pay!

I can’t wait to continue to share more of my findings with Kivi and the rest of her readers.

Thanks Lisa! Do you have experiment results you’d like to share? Email Kristina and she’ll get you on our guest blogging schedule. Lisa will share another update with us in late July. I have a huge pail of nonprofit direct mail I’ve received this year under my desk, and I’ll share some reflections on that soon.

Published On: June 30, 2011|Categories: Fundraising|