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June 28th, 2018

We’re not talking about the Unabomber, but we do know that lapsed supporters are particularly resistant to an organization’s typical efforts. That’s when you need a stick of dynamite!

The two most important factors when designing an approach to renew resistant supporters are a product closely linked to the organization’s mission or a special offer that is much different from the normal series of appeals.

Almost immediately what springs to mind is a front-end gift in the hope that the recipient will be impressed and make another gift. This tried and true method often generates response but not long-term loyalty if the product is not closely tied to the mission.

In fact, high value gifts can sometimes create a backlash if they are too extravagant or viewed as off-brand. A high-value approach certainly generates opening, but it must link the handy and useful gift that supports the mission’s brand.

Good examples abound: book lights and reading aids for charities that focus on blindness; how-to medical guides for health charities; religious products for faith-based organizations; mascot-themed premiums for universities; or outdoor-oriented guides for environmental nonprofits. Be sure to highlight the product’s tie to organization’s mission in accompanying materials (mentioning it three times is the goal) so the recipient knows why you selected the particular product. Of course, it must be branded!

As an alternative to a high-value product, consider a completely different approach: a heartfelt communication that demonstrates that you care about the supporter, going that critical extra mile to show your concern. In other words, a handwritten communication.

The era of receiving handwritten letters and notes has long since passed, almost completely replaced by electronic or mass-market communications. That’s why a handwritten envelope accompanied by a handwritten note can break through the mailbox clutter and make the donor feel especially treasured.

There are multiple vendors for high-volume needs that can fulfill thousands of handwritten mailing packages, allowing charities to implement large scale approaches to donor recapture. Despite the availability of machine-generated products that can emulate handwriting with actual pens, virtually every recipient can tell the difference between actual handwriting and emulated products.

Since modern Americans have little experience with reading handwriting—most schools now only teach keyboarding—keep the note short at 50 words or less. (This also keeps costs low since most handwriting is priced by the word or by the hour.)

Thank the donor for previous gifts and ask them to continue their support. Include a reply envelope that has already been imaged with the donor’s name and address in the return address location—a nice touch to make the communication more personal and less commercial.

Take advantage of these stick-of-dynamite approaches and be amazed at how many previous supporters become current again!

By Ron Bell | Managing Partner and Founder

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