CDE project 11b: part two — out­put from the direct mail work­shop and rec­om­men­da­tions to improve the donor experience

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 28, 2017

Right now, direct mail is a cost effective and valuable key point of contact with supporters and potential supporters. What can the sector do to counter the public perception of ‘junk mail and begging letters’? How can we shine a light on DM as a life-source for beneficiaries?

These are some of the questions we asked in a half-day workshop attended by charities small and large as well as agencies across creative and planning. 

On the day we had representatives from the following charities and agencies:

Breast Cancer Care, Parkinsons UK, Shelter, Marie Curie, Sense, Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care, RNLI, World Villages for Children, St Johns Ambulance, The Air Ambulance Service, Riding for the Disabled Associated, Watson Phillips Norman, Wood for Trees, Brightsource. 

The purpose and format of the workshop was to: 

  • Discuss hopes and fears around the role of direct mail today, and to discuss the best way forward in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the proposed Fundraising Preference Service (FPS).
  • To review in small groups the composition and content of good and bad examples of direct mail work (brought along by attendees) to agree what makes a great direct mail pack, and what is a real direct mail sin.
  • In small groups to discuss how we plan direct mail activities (including integration) within our organisations and across the sector to agree a charter of promises to reflect how we could plan better
  • To have a round-table discussion on what else we should be doing as a sector to create an environment that will allow us to change our models as necessary.
  • To at the end of the day have a vote on the day’s best ideas.

The following is a summary of some of the themes that emerged, together with some examples of direct mail to illustrate the point being made.

Examples of direct mail and recommendations to improve the donor experience

Recommendation 1: Send relevant direct mail

Send donors relevant communications based on why they got in touch with you in the first place. 

Example 1: British Heart Foundation 

This letter includes an invitation to a Christmas remembrance event. People who couldn’t attend were encouraged to write a message on a star in-memory of their loved one. This letter was sent to donors who had made a gift at a funeral.

Example 2: World Vision

Supporters were invited to an event to celebrate what had been achieved thanks to donor’s support. The event included a section on legacy giving and was targeted at long standing donors of World Vision.

Example 3: Sue Ryder

This mailing was sent to a supporter who had made one donation at a charity shop. The group felt it was too hard hitting and reliant on guilt to be effective as a first communication. Whilst long-time supporters may appreciate the honesty, for someone who had simply dropped off a bag of goods at a shop, it was felt to be too much. There was also concern whether such an approach was sustainable i.e. you can only send a letter like this once.

Click on the image below to view project 11b in full - PDF format

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

Related case studies or articles

CDE project 11b summary: direct mail

How can we plan better as a sector to avoid individuals being inundated with our communications and ensure that that our messages get the attention they deserve rather than all being lost in such a crowded space?

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CDE project 11b: the three key and separate steps to crafting a great DM appeal

Step 1: the proposition. Step 2: the concept. Step 3: the do’s and don’ts of direct mail appeal writing and design. 

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CDE project 11b: recommendations to improve the donor experience - two and three

Recommendation 2: Think about how donors FEEL.

Recommendation 3: Be an ambassador, as well as a fundraiser

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CDE project 11b: recommendations to improve the donor experience - four and five

Recommendation 4: Be smart with data

Recommendation 5: Have a great offer and compelling reason to give

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CDE project 11b: recommendation 6 - thank properly and great customer service

Thank personally and quickly. As project 6 on emotion recommends, fundraiser’s should aspire to be ‘famous for frequent, fast, fabulous feedback’. 

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CDE project 11b: appendix 1

Additional income plus cost savings from a digital print strategy - a direct mail case study from World Vision. 

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