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How Your Best Fundraising Turns into Junk Mail When You Aren’t Looking


Are you worried your organization might be sending out junk mail?

Here’s a quick way to find out. Check any of these statements you agree with:

❒ Our mail annoys our donors.
❒ I wish we didn’t have to ask for funds.
❒ Direct mail is not a good thing — I wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have to.

If you checked any of the above, you are probably sending junk mail.

The cause: your attitude. You think direct-mail fundraising is crummy, so your direct mail is crummy. It’s self-fulfilling.

Junk mail is often received. But it doesn’t need to be sent.

Now, check any of the statements below that you agree with:

❒ Our mail often delights our donors.
❒ Asking our donors for funds is a service to them.
❒ Direct mail isn’t perfect, but communicating with donors is great!

If you checked any of the above, there’s a good chance you are not a junk mailer. Your thinking is in line with the large majority of your donors’.

Anything you send to any donor — no matter how well done — has the potential to be perceived as junk mail. Maybe there’s too much other stuff in her mail that day. Maybe she just got some bad (or good) news that crowds out your message. Maybe the color of your envelope is the same as the color of her third-grade classroom, where she suffered at the hands of a mean teacher.

No matter how brilliant and on-target your message, it can transform into junk mail for someone. If you use direct mail to raise funds, get used to it. You can minimize it by being smart about timing, being careful about whom you mail to, being relevant with your message, and having great creative.

But you don’t control your donors’ minds. Some of them, some of the time, will see your message as junk mail. It’s not your fault.

But some mail is junk before it rolls off the presses. It’s the irrelevant, arrogant, braggy stuff that a lot of fundraisers send all the time. If you’re doing that, the junk mail is your fault.

The good news is — assuming you are doing a half-way decent job with your direct mail — you are sending out a lot of mail that’s interesting, delightful, and life-affirming to a lot of donors. Not junk mail at all. In fact, your mail is a great service to your donors.

Jeff Brooks

P.S. Please share your experience by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

P.P.S. Want to learn ways to make sure your hard work doesn’t turn junk mail? Take our Irresistible Communications course and become a master in welcome, relevant, effective donor communication! All members of The Fundraisingology Lab get access to all of our courses and more.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • I write to 6,000 people every 6 weeks or so, 10 campaigns a year. Two of these are newsletters, and two simple long letter reports-back. We get great feedback – in fundraising results, and in people telling us they just like receiving letters + like seeing the work they do through us. (I also meet face-to-face with different groups of donors once a month, and share stories even more directly about what they do through. And add handwritten notes to as many receipts as I can. People know they are part of something exciting, they ‘own’ our agency and we work for them. It’s joyous for all of us.


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