Print the First Renewal Letters Now

Print the First Renewal Letters Now

Right now, you know every member who will be renewing this year (assuming, of course, that you have members who renew every year). You know what they gave last year about this time. And you know what you will be asking them to give this year. In other words, you have everything you need to merge their letters and print them – right now – in March. Why not do it?


Fundraiser’s Almanac: March

Here’s the process:

1. First dig out the renewal letters you wrote last month (See Writing Renewal Letters). Does it still work? Short, sweet, and personable? Make any adjustments necessary.

2. The merge system with which I am the most familiar merges Excel spreadsheet data into a Word Letter file. If that’s true for you, too, you may want to make some adjustments to the Excel file after it comes out of your database.

    • The address block is better merged as a block than as component pieces. That way, you don’t end up having to format four-line addresses by hand.
    • The Salutation field may need to be adjusted – pay specific attention to multiple people at the same address and anyone using an initial as a first name. (Is the salutation for N. Smith Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith?) Make any and ALL adjustments in the database, too. If you can get this data right in the database, future merge files will be cleaner and easier.
    • You may wish to include populated columns (fields) for “Member Since”, and “Letter Date” to make the merge process easier.

3. Now segment your entire membership list by amount of their last membership gift. Segment the list into at least four groups (you can certainly merge the list into more than just four, but do it for at least these four):

    • A Group – Members who gave less than $100 last year.
    • B Group – Members who gave between $100-249
    • C Group – Members who gave between $250-$999
    • D Group – Members who gave $1,000 or more

4. Merge the A Group into a letter asking for $100. This will be the largest group you have.

5. Merge the B Group into a letter asking for $250.

6. Ask a board member to write letters to the C Group by hand asking for $1,000.

7. Consider the D Group individually, and ask for their renewal in person to the greatest extent possible.

8. Now print all the letters for Groups A and B, using the date that you intend to actually mail them as the date on each letter. Stuff them into envelopes with the appropriate response card and/or envelope and set them aside in date order for mailing later.

Why go to all this trouble? Because, by printing all your renewal letters in March, you will have time to plan cultivating donor/members in Groups C and D for later in the year. Depending on your organization, the C and D groups will account for 60-90 percent of the contributions for operations by the end of the year.


Got ideas about systems that work for you? Please consider sharing them here.




Photo credit: Courtesy of Walt Kaesler.

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