Eberle Associates
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Is Direct Mail Fund Raising For Me?

Before you say yes, stop and take this simple test to find out if you and your organization have what it takes to be successful in raising funds through the mail. But be brutally honest with yourself. Many groups (perhaps most) don't have the right ingredients in order to be successful in the mail. So unless you can confidently give a strong yes to each of these nine questions, perhaps you had better look for funds somewhere else.

Question 1.
Does your group focus on an emotional cause? In other words, is the issue for which you want to raise funds through the mail really important to the potential donor? Not should it be, but is it already? Does it make his blood boil? Is he really concerned or angry? If not, forget it! And don't substitute your own views for that of the potential donor, because in this case, his views are the only ones that count.
Question 2.
Does your group and your cause have an immediate need for funds? Not next year or at some point in the future, but do you have a need for money right now? Is it easy for the donor to understand what his $25 will go to, what it will accomplish? Direct mail donors will not give to hard-to-understand projects or those that will take place at some point in the distant future. They support groups with projects and programs they understand and that their dollars can have an immediate impact on solving a problem or advancing their beliefs.
Question 3.
Is your project and your cause national in scope? Not, do you want it to be of interest across the nation, but is it already of concern to prospective donors across the nation? Direct mail fund raising is about preaching to the choir. It's not about explaining new problems. If you have to explain, you're dead. Your organization must be addressing a problem with which the prospective donor is already familiar and which he cares deeply about.
Question 4.
Is it credible that your organization can actually have success in solving the problem you are addressing? Do you have a track record of success or at least a plan of action that is believable to the prospective donor? No donor wants to give his hard earned dollars to tilt at windmills. Donors want to solve problems and you must be able to convince them that your organization can indeed solve the problem you are attacking.
Question 5.
Do you have the patience and time needed to let the direct mail fund raising process succeed? Direct mail can provide a solid funding base for a foundation, organization, or candidate, but it takes time to work. Direct mail is not an instant money machine. A donor file must be built first, and that takes time. Maybe six to nine months. Patience is required as funds are first plowed back into building the donor base, not your projects and programs. There are exceptions when net revenue is generated early, but plan on the rule, not the exception. If you are impatient, or you need money immediately then perhaps you should consider a different plan of action.
Question 6.
Are you aware of just how costly direct mail fund raising is? No, it's not the professional fees that, when calculated, typically amount to about 10% of all costs. It's the printing, envelopes, lettershop services, lists, and especially the postage that makes direct mail fund raising expensive. It's because of these costs that it takes time to realize net income from your direct mail fund raising program. If you're not prepared to deal with the financial realities of the process then perhaps direct mail fund raising is not the right funding avenue for your organization. Even if your answer is yes, you need to proceed with your eyes wide open.
Question 7.
Are you prepared to stand back and let us do our job? Are you willing to limit your input to matters of factual research, organization policy and law? Are you willing to use "command response" techniques that have a track record of success? Are you willing to sign off on fund appeals that contain words, grammar and sentence structure that differ from your personal taste? Are you prepared to resist the urge to make copy changes just for the sake of putting your personal mark on the fund appeal? You had better answer with a loud yes if you want your fund appeals to work. Unless your appeals use techniques that "command" a response and unless they use emotional, "now-or-never" phrases constructed from simple, everyday words, don't expect them to succeed. It's not going to happen.
Question 8.
Is there something that makes your appeal unique? What is it that sets you or your organization apart from the competition? There must be major, clear cut differences in the eyes of the potential donor, not just in your eyes. There's a lot of competition in the mail for contributions. What niche or need do you fill that no other organization fills? If there are only subtle differences, then perhaps you should find another way to raise funds. In other words, are there other groups already raising funds through the mail that have more credibility and a better track record of solving the problem you are concerned about? While it's true that some issues are so large that a number of groups can successfully raise funds to address them, it's still important for your approach to be unique.
Question 9.
Are you prepared to make a personal commitment to making the fund raising effort a success? This is perhaps the most important question of all. Signers, testimonials, case studies, and research are all your responsibility. If you're not prepared to put the time and effort into making the program work, maybe you had better re-think using direct mail to raise funds.

So what's your verdict? Yes or No?

If you were able to answer all of the above nine questions with an emphatic yes, then perhaps you and your organization are indeed one of the select few groups that can be successful raising funds through the mail.

A yes to these critical nine questions may mean it's time to Contact Us. We'll be glad to tell you if we agree with your evaluation of your direct mail fund raising potential. Or you can apply for a no-risk test mailing.

On the other hand, you may now be wondering why you should use direct mail to raise funds for your important cause. If that's the case, take just a moment to read about the Unique Advantages of direct mail fund raising.

And you may want to check out 5 Things Wrong, 5 Things Right with direct mail fund raising. It's always better to look before you leap.