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Stop mailing the major donors … they’re different

As a fundraiser you’ve probably heard this more than once. But is it the right thing to do?

Most major gifts are made after about five years of giving. About 88% of major gifts come from existing supporters. So, the majority of major donors spend the first part of their relationship with you as general donors – and a part of your general stewardship program.

They reach the status of a major donor because they have enjoyed and responded to the communications that you have had with them.

So, why shouldn’t they continue to receive the mail and email appeals that other donors get?

Back in 2014, Grizzard Communications Group reported on some surprising test results.

In the test, 500 donors of $500 or more were allowed to limit the number of appeals they would receive in the coming year.

They wrote to all 500 donors and attached a list of the 12 direct mail appeals they were scheduled to receive that coming year. They said they would mail them all 12 of the appeals unless they received specific instructions from the donors.

Of the 500 in the group, 186 wrote back and designated the specific mailings they wanted during the next 12-month mailing cycle. Interestingly, the most mailings anyone selected was three.

At the end of the year, they compared the group that received all 12 mailings versus the group that had self-identified those mailings that were of most interest. The result?

The donors who received all 12 mailings gave 35% more than the ones who selected their particular appeal.

The learning? Unless your donor has specifically asked you to stop mailing or e-mailing them appeals, stick with your direct mail stewardship schedule. And combine it with your major donor cultivation strategy.

Because if your charity is stewarding well, your donors at every level are receiving thoughtful communications from you that move the relationship forward. Great fundraising means you never need to worry about your mail or email.

When you take any segment of donors from your stewardship program, unless you have a substitute communication and ask strategy to replace the direct response communication, there’s a real risk of those donors falling into a black hole of under-communication.

Like any donor, major donors love to give.  Take them out of your stewardship schedule and you deny them the joy of what it means to make an impact with their giving.

Plus, it can have a devastating impact on your organisation’s income.

HOT TIP: Do you have rules around ‘do not mail’ in your charity, we often see whole segments changed at a whim of one person. Setup two flags, ‘DNM-donor request’ and ‘DNM internal’, this simple change empowers your supporters.

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