Every Direct Marketing Fundraiser Should Work in Major Gifts

            Dr. Alice White hated receiving direct mail. But I could always count on her to make a gift… a substantial gift. Our routine was always the same.

As a major gift officer of a large nonprofit, I would send a lengthy unrestricted appeals to my donors, including Dr. White. Nearly every time, she would reply to the appeal with a handwritten note on her personalized stationery. Her notes were well written and her points varied.

Noting the amount and date of her last gift, she once inform me that receiving another solicitation was too soon. In turn, I replied with a handwritten note. I explained that her commitment to our mission compelled me to write about our special initiative and to give her the opportunity to support it. I never apologized, because I didn’t do anything wrong.

I mailed it off to her Bronxville home and waited for her response, which would soon come with a friendly short message and her gift, usually in strange amounts, such as $7,000 or $9,000. Each year, she would make 2 to 3 gifts totaling about $15,000-$20,000.

Alice White never wanted to meet with me on person. She was retired. I invited her to small cultivation events in New York City, but the only time she left her home was to “go down to the A&P” about twice a week. When mailing appeals, I learned to write my own note in Alice’s package (and others), just to let her know I am paying attention.

Not every donor was like Alice White…

For example, Christine Stephens was giving several times each year. Each time, she would give her HPC or more. When she upgraded to $1,000, Christine joined our highly-specialized “Partners” program. Her giving stopped. She was lapsed for two years, when she caught my attention. I reviewing her giving history. The answer was obvious; her only gifts to the organization were telemarketing credit card gifts. The organization does not phone donors who contribute $1,000 or more. I called her and she was happy to make a gift sounding almost apologetic for have not contributed in so long.

I loved working in major gifts. I learned to correspond with each donors in a way that they were comfortable with. A few, like Christine, appreciated the phone calls. Some didn’t appreciate any personalized interaction. I learned to never give up!

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