A friendly reminder…

Organisations might be tempted to write-off the notion of doing a follow-up direct mail campaign, thinking it will save money. But income can spike more than 30% when you send unresponsive donors a second reminder letter.

Simply speaking, an appeal follow-up or reminder is a letter mailed to donors who received an organisation’s initial appeal campaign mailing but haven’t donated within the first two to three weeks. It is a simple, easy and effective way to boost overall appeal performance.

Ideally, the follow-up mailing should be posted one month after the initial mail pack. This complies with privacy laws and gives donors enough time to respond to the initial mailing and avoid being mailed twice.

Follow-ups not limited to mail

Supporters can also receive reminders via telephone and e-mail.  Both channels can yield good results.

For telephone follow-ups, however, you do need your donors’ numbers on file. Most charities have a limited amount of phone numbers on the database – usually less than 30%, unless the supporters were acquired via telemarketing. Just remember, donors acquired by phone are most responsive to a follow-up call, but it’s a good idea to send them the appeal pack beforehand.

E-mail follow-ups can be effective during certain periods where you can focus on deadlines to create urgency – for example, a few days before financial year end on June 30. This is a cost-effective way to make an additional ask and doesn’t replace the mail or phone follow-up. However, as per the phone, the channel is limited to the number of e-mail addresses on your database.

It’s important to obtain supporters’ phone numbers and e-mail addresses if you are serious about a multi-channel follow-up strategy which works better than a mail follow-up alone.

Here are seven tips for successful follow-up campaigns:

  1. A follow-up campaign is easy to implement, as you should already have the initial mail file, meaning all you need to do is identify and remove donors who have already responded, as well as any new deceased, “do not mail” or “return to sender records”. It is also prudent to always update any new addresses between the initial mailing and the follow-up.
  2. A short half-page letter is usually sufficient, reminding the donor of the initial mail pack and restating both the ‘need’ and the ‘ask’. It is very important to include a sentence in the letter to thank donors in case their gift crosses with the follow-up letter in the mail – for example, if their donation is received around the same time the follow-up campaign is being lodged with the mail house.
  3. When planning the follow-up campaign data, you can use the same or similar segmentation as the initial mailing. However, it is ideal to allocate new mail codes for tracking and meaningful analysis of follow-up performance at the end of the campaign. The same applies to phone and e-mail reminders.
  4. Use the phone and/or e-mail to supplement your mail follow-up activities to maximise results. Targeting phone-responsive donors via the phone also makes sense.
  5. A follow-up campaign can generate a large proportion of total campaign revenue. The average proportion of revenue generated by the ten campaigns shown in Figure A is over 30%. The follow-up also boosts the response to the initial mailing and it is common to see over 50% of total revenue received after the follow-up mailing is lodged.
  6. A big question is how many follow-up campaigns you should undertake and there is no simple answer. It is proven that ‘the more you mail, the more revenue you receive’ but there’s a fine line between optimal mailings and over-mailing which can lead to supporter attrition. As a minimum, try a follow-up component to your tax and Christmas campaigns and use a multi-channel component for best results. If your mail schedule permits, perhaps consider follow-up activity for your off-peak mailings in spring and autumn too.
  7. Remember that only a handful of supporters will be opposed to receiving a reminder. You need to make sure you can flag them in your database and avoid including them in future and staff will also need training to handle any possible complaint calls.

A follow-up should be an integral part of your direct mail campaign strategy, as it will improve campaign revenue, profitability and donor responses. A ‘friendly reminder’ can go a long way in helping you achieve and exceed campaign targets.

First published in Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine