If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: what should you do when your direct mail breaks all the rules but still gets results?
That’s the question I’m currently facing in my new job and I’m torn.
Our current appeals break nearly every rule that you’ll see in a fundraising direct mail book. In fact, I’m fairly certain Mal Warwick or Tom Ahernwould hold up the appeals as good examples of how not to do fundraising direct mail.
Our appeal letters to current supporters are wordy, hard to read, use complicated language, bury the ask (if they ask at all), don’t have a p.s., don’t use underlining, italics or bold to emphasise points and break just about every rule you could name.
However, the results look pretty good: over the last five years response rates have never dropped below 10% and average gifts have increased year on year.
My big worry is that supporters have got used to our style and if I change too much, too quickly then they won’t recognise it is from us and will stop giving. On the other hand, by making some changes it might be possible to increase response rates to over 20%.
Ultimately it will come down to testing and tweaking the appeals to maximise income, but it just goes to show that you can break the rules and still have some success...
I’ll report back on the changes I make and the effect they have on results.
In the meantime if you have any ideas or suggestions then let me know.