A bunch of reasons why January is NOT necessarily the best time to ‘hit your donor’s mailbox’

Recently I saw a question posted on a discussion board that was inspired by a blog (NOT mine) titled: WHY YOU NEED TO HIT YOUR DONOR’S MAILBOX FIRST THING IN 2019

The question was: Planned/legacy giving marketing – when do you mail?

Here’s the response I posted. I thought I’d share it since I received lots of private email kudos overnight. So I must have struck a chord with some.

I don’t recommend asking the question: “when to mail?” The question itself treats so many donors and supporters the same. Yet they are all so different.

The bottom line is that legacy giving is not a transaction. It isn’t an impulse decision. It’s not like selling leaf blowers (of course you’d mail when it’s getting colder and the leaves are starting to fall). No! Legacy giving is a highly-considered decision. Most people take years to finally make the decision.

Therefore, recognizing that it cannot be treated like a transaction, the real questions to first ask are:

  • Where is each donor in the consideration process?
  • Why do they care?
  • How will they want to find meaning in their lives?
  • What are their needs, interests, and desires (often based on the above AND their capacity)?

donor consideration process

When you know the answers to those questions, then you can create a smart, highly segmented mailing plan with personalization and relevance, timed for groups of supporters so they’ll feel good.

Look, it makes no sense to send mail about making a bequest to people who are not ready for that offer. Most supporters will be in the awareness, interest, or desire stages anyway— not the action stage. So why mail to everyone with an action-oriented offer when most people simply aren’t ready for that (no matter what month of the year it is). People in the awareness stage need a different kind of offer. I won’t go into the various offers you should consider for each stage of the consideration process because doing so will sound self-promotional (since that’s what my company essential sells). But I am happy to discuss it with you privately if you want.

Instead, just realize that people make decisions on their timelines, usually because of major changes in their lives (i.e. – birth of a grandchild, death of a spouse, recent illness, etc.). You simply can’t group everyone together. If you do, that’s called ‘spraying and praying’. It’s expensive, wasteful, and it ticks-off a lot of donors because they really don’t want to toss your mail in the trash. When they do, they feel like they are tossing their own donations away.

Find out why each supporter cares, what they want/need, and where they reside in the consideration process. Then, mail to them (assuming they opted-in to receive your mailings) donor-centric, highly relevant and personalized communications that deliver value based on where they are, why they care, what they want, etc. If you do that, the results will be astounding and you’ll save a lot of trees (less printing) and reduce your mailing costs.

I hope that makes sense.

It’s harder to do it this way but it’s a heck of a lot nicer for your donors and exponentially more effective.

Spraying and praying may be easy for you but it won’t make your donors happy.

🙂  Gosh, I sure hope that’s well received.

Here’s more that I did not include on the discussion board:

Folks, mailing ‘action-oriented’ communications that essentially promote bequests in January, February or any other time is a great idea IF and ONLY IF:

  1. You have permission to mail those people (don’t be an annoying spray-and-pray marketer);
  2. You have learned enough about them to be able to segment the list and only mail ‘action-oriented’ communications to people who are likely ready to take action;
  3. You personalize your messages based on what you know about each donor (and NO, I don’t mean by adding their name to the letter… that’s not true personalization, it lacks humanity and donors aren’t fooled by lackluster attempts at personalization).

For goodness sake, stop wasting your donors’ hard-earned dollars with spray and pray direct mail marketing. 


Related Posts:

>>How I leave voicemail messages that get returned
>>How to discover planned gifts using interns because you can’t afford a telemarketing firm


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Get smarter with the SmartIdeas blog

Subscribe to our blog today and get actionable fundraising ideas delivered straight to your inbox!