Why You Should Send a Letter Now


Here’s why you should probably be sending out an emergency appeal letter to your donor file:

This chart shows the percentage of revenue that’s coming in from different generations.

Direct mail appeals work very well at reaching the group of folks in blue on the right.

You know, the ones who (statistically speaking) have the most compassion and money to give you right now.

And you know, the people who your email and social probably aren’t reaching in significant numbers.

To any organization who is considering using direct mail for their coronavirus fundraising,


I can’t say that everyone should do it. But chances are, you should.

Here’s how to think about it to make a good decision for your organization:

  • If the coronavirus or the current situation is harming your beneficiaries, your cause, or your organization, then you should be fundraising now.
  • If you’ve sent out an emergency e-appeal and it raised more than a “normal” e-appeal raises…
  • If you’re able to convert your e-appeal into a direct mail appeal and get it in the mail quickly…

Then you should absolutely send out an “emergency direct mail appeal.”

Get it written (your e-appeal is your first draft – and maybe your final draft!) and send it as fast as you can.

Speed matters. If your donors are going to give emergency gifts to five organizations, you don’t want to be the 7th organization who asks them.

And if you can’t get a letter out to everyone quickly, then figure out how to get a letter out to your top donors in the next couple days. One tactic we see working: print out your e-appeal, handwrite a note on the top and send it to your major donors along with a generic reply card and envelope.

The Big Idea here is to use the mail to reach your major donors and the LARGE group of compassionate folks who would like to help but aren’t email responsive. Good luck out there. And we’ll be posting helpful tips every day for the foreseeable future.

COVID-19 fundraising principles


If you’re going to raise money for your beneficiaries and/or cause during the pandemic, follow these principles, and you’ll raise more money.

Note: Everything I’m about to say assumes one important thing – the current pandemic situation impacts your organization, cause, and/or beneficiaries. That could be the virus. It could be the economy. It could be travel restrictions. In other words, that there are “new or more needs” that you’re dealing with.

Here are the principles Better Fundraising is living by as we work with clients:

Speed matters. Sometime soon, several hundred thousand organizations are going to realize they’re in trouble and are going to send out e-appeals. You want to beat them to your donors’ inboxes. Don’t wait until the next vacancy in your communication schedule – cancel what’s coming next and replace it with something urgent.

Volume matters. Your donors’ attention is more fragmented than usual. That means your email open rates are going to drop by 20%. Your direct mail open rates will drop too. That means fewer people will see what you send out. And if fewer people see what you send out, you raise less money. So you need to send out more things.

Simplicity matters. You have less of your donors’ attention than you normally do. If your donor usually reads two paragraphs of your email before deciding whether to read the rest, for the next weeks, she’s only going to read one paragraph. So you have to get to the point quickly, and you have to keep it very simple.

Acute needs raise money. We’ve already seen this several times in the last five days. If your beneficiaries or organization is facing a critical need, share it with your donors. Donors LOVE acute needs.

So if your beneficiaries are short of rent money because their service industry jobs have been slashed, ask your donors to provide rent money. If you’re $1 million event was just canceled, ask donors to help erase your $1 million shortfall.

Make it clear – make it simple. Resist the urge to over-explain. Send it fast.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a video I made with an 8-point outline for a successful e-appeal.

Good luck out there!