Direct Mail Appeals: How to Crush Your Fundraising Campaigns

Be sure to send your direct mail appeals with GivingMail.

Direct mail appeals are often the backbone of communication and fundraising for nonprofits. Getting the most out of your campaign design and direct mail partner can make all the difference in the success of your appeals.

At GivingMail, we work with all sorts of nonprofits and fundraising organizations to maximize revenue for their causes. And it all starts with an optimized fundraising appeal!

In this guide, we’ll provide tried-and-true tips for crushing your direct mail appeals. Specifically, we’ll cover the following:

Ready to learn more about successfully requesting donations from your supporters with top fundraising appeals? Let’s jump in.

Tell an engaging story with your direct mail appeals.

Telling an Engaging Story

The most important part of any direct mail appeal is it’s ability to engage the donor. It doesn’t matter how much useful information you include if you can’t get the recipient to read your letter. Writing an engaging story can keep the reader interested in your appeal while connecting them with your cause. Here are a few key tips:

Connect with the Reader

Most readers make the decision to finish your appeal or set it down within a few seconds. It’s vital that you have some sort of early hook to pique interest and get them to continue reading.

Use Visuals

Visuals also play an important role in helping your reader understand the story you’re telling. Images in your direct mail appeals should always relate to your cause and the specific story you’re sharing in that specific appeal. In this case, “a picture is worth a thousand words” couldn’t be more true. A great picture gets the reader to visualize and really see into your appeal’s story.

Adjust your direct mail appeals to various audiences.

Adjusting Your Direct Mail Appeals

Personalization and segmentation are both very important to your fundraising appeals’ success. Each aspect impacts the specific appeal each recipient gets, but they differ in key ways.


Personalization in a fundraising appeal is simply using personal information about each recipient to create a unique appeal for that person. This strategy can bring drastically improved results in your appeals and can be easy to do. Something as small as using a person’s name in the letter they receive can drive up your response rate with little effort.

For example, starting your letter with “Dear [First Name]” is much more personal and relevant than “Dear reader.” Plus, it’s the fastest way to personally connect your reader to the appeal. You can use their name throughout the letter, reference their donation history, or even their location such as city or state to truly customize each appeal to the recipient.


Segmentation is equally as important and can make the difference between a great fundraising campaign and a less successful one. Essentially, donor segmentation is grouping recipients by similar characteristics.

For example, an easy type of segmentation is splitting up people who have donated in the past vs. those who have never given. It doesn’t have to stop there, though. You can split up previous donors by how recently they donated (i.e. within the last 6 months, 6-18 months, longer than 18 months), by gender, location, etc.

It's a good idea to segment your direct mail appeals.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s important to track characteristics that directly impact the giving behavior of donors. You could segment groups by age, but if each age group doesn’t act differently based on their appeal, you’re just adding time and effort without purpose.

A good way to keep track of segments and individual donor characteristics is to have a good nonprofit CRM, or donor database. GivingMail offers GivingMail CRM, and can help any organization raise more with targeted fundraising strategies and direct mail appeals, both through segmentation and otherwise.

Explore various types of direct mail appeals.

Exploring Various Types of Direct Mail Appeals

There are a number of direct mail appeal options for nonprofits. Each of these has their own uses and benefits to your organization. Here are two of our favorites:

Fundraising Letters

Fundraising letters are the most common direct mail appeal for nonprofits. They give your organization a chance to share information about your cause and tell a powerful story while providing the opportunity to request a gift.

These letters can be adapted for any cause and any call to action – from asking for a donation, to asking for volunteers, to just sharing an update about your cause.

Fundraising letters and postcards are two of the most common direct mail appeals.


Postcards are a unique alternative to traditional fundraising letters, and they don’t carry as much information. These are useful for sharing a single piece of information or call to action in a simple way. Postcards are often used by for-profit companies to raise brand awareness or offer a sale, but nonprofits can use them for cause-based updates or for asking for an event RSVP or donation.

Make sure to craft high-quality direct mail appeals to raise more for your organization.

Crafting High-Quality Direct Mail Appeals

Your direct mail appeals’ success depends on many factors, including the package as a whole. The letter is important, but having high-quality components such as ink, paper, etc. can also impact the likelihood of a donor to give to your cause. Here are a few aspects to consider:

Visual Design

Your design needs to cater to the action you want the recipient to take. The letter should include an image or two related to the copy to help improve the connection to the story you’re sharing. If you’re asking for donations, you’ll want to include an obvious call to action so the potential donor knows exactly where to go and how to give.

Think of the visual design as a complementary to the function of the appeal. Ideally, your appeal is easy-to-read, attention grabbing, and clearly points to the desired action.

Quality Materials

The materials used for your appeal also play an important role in its success. You’ll want to make sure that your paper is at least 60# and that the printing is done with high quality ink. Without high quality materials and production, even the best design can be blurred and lose it’s effect.

Make sure your direct mail appeals allow for easy conversion.

Ensuring Easy Conversion for Direct Mail Appeals

The most important metric for success of a direct mail appeal is the conversion rate on your call-to-action. This is generally funds raised from your appeals. In order to maximize your fundraising, you’ll want to make it as simple and easy as possible for the recipient to give. Here are two key strategies:

Include a reply envelope.

Including a reply envelope in your fundraising appeal package removes a hurdle to giving and makes it easier for someone to send your organization a donation. It also subtly strengthens your call to action by hinting that the recipient should be sending you something back. Depending on the audience and the expected response rate, these can be pre-stamped and already addressed to your organization to make it even easier to send in a donation.

Integrate with an online campaign.

If your organization accepts online donations, you’ll also want to include information in your appeal on how and where the donor can do so. For example, be sure to include the URL for your online donation page or your text-to-give phone number and keyword. The more ways to give the donor has, the more likely they are to donate through one of those options.

Consider integrating your direct mail appeals with an online campaign.
Choose a platform to send your direct mail appeals.

Direct Mail Fundraising Platforms: Are They Helpful?

In short, yes – direct mail fundraising platforms are helpful for nonprofits.

Most nonprofits are strapped for time and have limited resources. This can make creating and mailing direct mail appeals a hassle and pull focus away from other cause-related actions.

Using a dedicated fundraising platform can speed up the process and let your organizations and volunteers focus their time on the cause by taking the hassle of printing, packing, and mailing off of their plate. However, certain direct mail fundraising companies might charge more than they’re worth! In that case, you might end up losing money by partnering with a pricey platform.

Generally, a nonprofit wanting to send out direct mail appeals has two choices:

Taking a “DIY” Approach

A DIY approach to direct mail fundraising can work for nonprofits, but is generally more expensive and time consuming at the end of the day. The cost of paper, ink, postage, and other key components can often add up to be more expensive than using a platform that offers direct mail fundraising packages.

Time is also an important factor in most nonprofits where volunteer hours and employee time are stretched out as is. Finding ways to save time and money is always a good thing in the nonprofit world.

Working with a Dedicated Vendor

Dedicated nonprofit vendors, such as GivingMail, can be helpful with all aspects of your fundraising. You’ll also find that by working with a dedicated vendor, future fundraising gets easier and easier as you learn from past appeals, save time by not having to start from zero with every campaign, and capitalize on their expertise.

GivingMail is a top provider for direct mail appeals.

Using these tips, you’ll be crushing your direct mail appeals in no time. For any questions about fundraising, direct mail appeals, nonprofit CRMs, or anything else nonprofit related – GivingMail is here for your organization.

For more information on fundraising resources and hosting an effective campaign, check out our other educational guides:

Be sure to send your direct mail appeals with GivingMail.

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