Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pet peeves in appeals

Daughters Elle and Lia and I returned Saturday from a trip to see my dad. When we got home, sitting in the stack of mail were three credit card offers, four attempts to get me to subscribe to magazines, and two requests for funds from nonprofit organizations.

One of those is a renewal request from an organization we last gave to three or four years ago; the second is the third or fourth acquisition appeal from the same organization since I started tracking in May. I’m not giving to that one – again. I don’t take myself off of lists but if you want to cut down on wasting paper, you could request that you be removed from direct mail lists. Warning, though: It isn't easy or sure-fire.

The renewal request intrigued me. They are doing the right thing to invest in retaining prior donors. That is the most cost-effective way to raise funds, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, among others.

The request itself looks like an invitation. This organization is using many tried and true approaches to get readers to open the envelope and then to boost response rate: a stamp on the envelope; “handwriting” font used – in blue – for the address; “handwriting” font crossing out “Dear Friend” and “writing” our names to make it look more personal; plus adding a “handwritten” post-script and signature.

Inside is a very well done appeal letter. The letter is brief and fits inside the two panels of a 6” x 8.5” card. It contains:
a) An emotional “word picture” to break the silence – suffering people caught in manmade or natural disasters.
b) Five examples of results or impact this organization claims for last year’s work.
c) A transition, asking us to fix our gaze on this year, listing countries where disasters and their aftermath continue.
d) A request for our help.
e) A closing paragraph with the organization’s tag line included seamlessly in the text.
f) The aforementioned P.S. in “handwriting” with a specific dollar amount mentioned.
g) A postage-paid return envelope, eliminating the need for me to find a stamp along with five minutes and a pen.

The little form is printed with our names and address, and it gives us options for amounts to contribute. The organization accepts four different credit cards and on the back, all of the required registrations by state are listed. A website is provided, but I’m not invited to go there to make a gift. Maybe I’m supposed to know that I can do that, if I prefer?

And then the clincher for me. I admit that this is a pet peeve. The response slip DOES NOT FIT easily in the return envelope. Maybe response goes up when people have to fold the slip to fit in the envelope, but to me it looks like bad planning.

We are not giving to this organization right now. I won’t even keep the appeal to consider later, since I’m 100% certain they’ll send several more in weeks and months to come. Maybe the envelope and reply device will go together next time.

What is YOUR pet peeve in fundraising appeals?

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