Proven way to “Repeat” — send a follow-up mailing to raise 1/3 more

Repeat mailing letters.

There’s a simple way for small nonprofits to increase revenue by 1/3 for most of their campaigns.

There aren’t that many “tricks” that nonprofits can use to raise more money immediately. But this is one of them.

Repeat Your Message in a Follow-up Mailing

Here’s what to do almost any time you have a mailing going out with a time-sensitive deadline: send a follow-up mailing, with the exact same main message as the initial mailing, a couple of weeks after your initial mailing.

A “follow-up mailing” is a proven tactic that large nonprofits have used for 60 years. And a few years ago I noticed something when our smaller clients added follow-up mailings…

The Benefits of a Follow-up Mailing

  • The follow-up mailing will raise about 1/3 what the initial mailing raises.
  • Sending a follow-up mailing will not materially reduce the amount of money the initial mailing raises.

So by sending a follow-up mailing you’ve increased your revenue by 1/3.

And that 1/3 is new money. Additional revenue. It’s from donors who otherwise wouldn’t have given to the campaign.

An Example

Say you have a Back-to-School campaign every August. And you normally mail your letter around August 7th.

Here’s what I’d do. Send your Back-to-School letter earlier, around July 25th. Then send a follow-up mailing on August 9th.

The follow-up letter should have exactly the same main message as your first letter. Repeat the same phrases and the exact same call to action. Just make it a little shorter, and mention the deadline for response a couple times more than you did in your first letter.

The second letter will raise about one third of what your first letter raises. And your initial letter will raise about the same amount that it always does.

Why This Works

There are two reasons this works:

  1. Not every donor received your message the first time you sent it. Some were on vacation, some didn’t open the mail, etc.
  2. Not every donor who received your initial mailing was convinced that it was important enough to respond to. Have you ever had to repeat something to someone who wasn’t really paying attention the first time? It’s the same thing here. Donors are generous, compassionate, busy people who aren’t always paying attention.

The Cost Is Clear

It’s pretty easy to figure out if you should add a follow-up mailing.

Say your Back-to-School appeal letter raises about $20,000 and costs $2,500 to mail.

You can assume your follow-up appeal will raise about $6,500 on costs of about $2,500. You’ve just created an extra $4,000 in revenue you can use for your Back-to-School campaign.

Usually, the only reasons not to do a follow-up mailing are if:

  • The cost of the follow-up appeal doesn’t cover the increased expense.
  • There’s something else you could be saying to your donors during that period that would raise more than the follow-up appeal would raise.

No Negative Effects

There are basically no negative effects to doing a follow-up mailing.

Your donors won’t unsubscribe or complain from too much mail. You won’t drive them away. They won’t give less later.

And if you’re worried about the follow-up letter bothering some donors, put a line in the letter that says, “I’m sorry if you sent in a Back-to-School gift and our letters have crossed in the mail. But I’m writing today because it is so important that the kids walk into school their first morning with everything they need to succeed…”

This Tactic Works

It works in the mail, in email, on social media, on the phone.

It works because not all of your donors got your message the first time. And not all of the donors who got the message the first time were convinced that it was important enough to respond.

I know I’m repeating myself from above, but it’s that important.

Repetition works, people!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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