You Can Print All Your Renewal Letters NOW – in March

You Can Print All Your Renewal Letters NOW – in March

 

By David Allen, Development for Conservation

 

You know, right now, 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 and when. And you know or could easily decide 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?

Start by segmenting 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. These donors can be asked for $100 in the first renewal letter.
  • B Group – Members who gave between $100-249. These donors can be asked for $250 in the first renewal letter.
  • C Group – Members who gave between $250-$999. These donors can be asked for $500 or even $1,000 in the first renewal letter.
  • D Group – Members who gave $1,000 or more. These donors should be considered individually!

 

I have emphasized “in the first renewal letter,” because a) sending more than just one letter is highly advised, and b) follow-up letters arguably should not be so aggressive with the ask amounts – use request amounts closer to what they gave last year instead.

So – you should be able to print all the letters in Groups A and B NOW, in March. You will need to be careful of the date – use the date you intend to mail each letter as a merge field and group the letters by mail date. Fold, stuff, seal. And label each group by mail date. When the mail dates roll around, all that is left is putting on the postage and throwing the batch in the mail.

Why go to all this trouble? Because, by printing all your renewal letters in March, you will have time to plan more carefully for donor/members in Groups C and D later in the year. Depending on your organization, the C and D groups will account for 10-20 percent of your donors but 60-90 percent of your money. The extra time spent personalizing will have been worthwhile.

There is an “E” group that I recommend segmenting as well if you have time and inclination. This last segment contains members who made a first gift last year, regardless of amount, and who will be asked for a renewal for the first time. If you know how they were recruited – what they responded to that first inspired them to give – and can weave their renewal message around that experience, the response rate will improve.

Do you have a good letter? It is good practice to rewrite your renewal letters at least once each year, and March is a great time to do that. Written well, good renewal letters should work for you all year.

Renewal letters aren’t complicated. They are short and to the point. The essential “case” for giving is that they gave last year and the year before. In fact, they’ve given about this time every year since 1961. It’s time to “renew.”

So don’t overly complicate the letter with unnecessary facts and figures and accomplishments and long-winded explanations of new projects. The letter should be warm and personable. It should list board members and/or key staff down the side of the letterhead (Board Directors give organizations credibility). It should get to the point quickly (in the first paragraph). It should express appreciation for last’s year’s gift and perhaps even mention how long they’ve been members. It should ask for a specific amount of money. It should have a PS note. And it should all fit on a single page.

Also:

  • Use at least 12 point type and one-inch margins (if you have too many words, cut the number of words instead of making it tinier and harder to read)
  • Don’t use graphics or embedded pictures – they are distracting
  • Keep it to one page
  • Separate the letters by four to five weeks
  • Track number and percentage response to each letter and average gift for year-to-year comparisons

 

Cheers, and Have a Great Week!

 

-da

 

Photo by Jeff Hollett courtesy of Stocksnap.io.

 

PS: Parts of this blog were originally posted in 2015.

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