When your organization’s mail arrives in someone’s home, that package is an emissary for your cause. It has a very brief opportunity to tell your story – to make your case – in a manner that is compelling enough to generate a gift then and there, and thus it must be a very powerful messenger. If a direct mail package were a person, here is how you might describe him or her:

He’s Wearing His Heart on His Sleeve
Asking in print or online does not allow for personal give and take or for any opportunity to answer questions, as you would have with a face-to-face solicitation. Instead, the direct mail case is driven by emotion (including fear, anger, guilt, sympathy or even greed). It must immediately convince readers that the organization is meeting needs and is a philanthropic priority in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

She’s True Blue
It is often said that a direct marketing message must be “TRU” – timely, relevant and urgent. Being the good spellers and creative thinkers we are, S&W prefers “TRUE,” with the E standing for engagement. Connecting the reader with your cause in a way that will transcend the donation itself is the first step to building a sustainable donor base.

He’s Not Asking for Much –
But He Knows Exactly What He’s Asking For

A key element of direct marketing is the offer – a request for support for a very specific purpose: not just “our operations,” but “programs that reach school children.” Better yet, we often talk in terms of symbolic giving – an amount of money that represents a unit of what the organization delivers with its programming. For example, for $7, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels can deliver a hot meal to a hungry senior in Los Angeles. This gift, even if it seems small, is attainable and has a real impact.

She’s the Real Deal
While it may be easier to get results using hyperbole, we always believe the appeal (whether online or offline) should be authentic. Telling stories allows a cause to be emotional and real – and to demonstrate, in a very human way, the organization’s impact, without losing your truevoice.

He’s Brought Along Some Friends to Help Explain
The letter is the core of the package, but some causes or situations compel additional explanation. Lift notes or inserts accompanying the letter are places to share more detailed information. These are also opportunities to share additional voices – those of the people your organization serves – as part of the package.

He’s Done His Homework
If the reader has supported this organization before, the letter should acknowledge that history, in as specific a manner as possible. Lapsed members are told that they are missed and needed. Frequent donors are thanked for their generous and recent support.

She’s Hip to the Trends
Whether it is touting the organization’s Charity Navigator rating as a sign of its accountability or encouraging you to join the monthly giving program and help the environment by reducing paper mailings, the letter should speak in terms that reflect issues and values that are a priority for your audience.

He’s Dressed Appropriately
When your direct mail letter got dressed, it already knew what it was going to say. Package design is chosen to support the message – too many design elements can detract from what you’re trying to communicate. Photos are carefully selected to enhance the case.

Wise planning and creativity can ensure that your organization, via your direct response communications, is a welcome guest in donors’ homes – appreciated on a regular basis for many years to come!