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How do you ask a person to donate if they have never donated before? What type of list should you use? How much should you ask for?

If you’re just starting in direct mail and then you’re probably looking for donor acquisition. Aim to acquire as many donors as possible, not to make as much money as possible. True success comes with securing a loyal donor who will donate regularly.

The best way to improve your direct mail fundraising program is through testing.

There are thousands of different direct mail fundraising lists. Some target certain donor interests like helping children or animals, and others depict donors with the propensity to donate to more than one charity or non-profit organization. Test a few different lists to determine which list type works best for your organization.

Asking for the right amount with a first-time gift is critical. It can mean the difference between earning net income with your mailing, or not breaking even. So test lists by varying your ask amount. And test ask amounts over time so that you discover the optimum amount of money to ask for with a potential donor.

Test mailing a flyer or brochure with pictures with a simple envelope and letter. Depending on you non-profit and your ask, one may work better than the other.

Mail at least 5,000 pieces to get 50 responses at a one percent response rate. Fifty responses is considered the minimum number you should generate to achieve a truly accurate test.

Once you figure you have the perfect list, the perfect ask, the mail piece, you should still keep testing. There’s always going to be room for improvement. Test a new list, test two asks, test teaser copy on the envelope, test the length of the letter – test something of significance every time you mail. Over time, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll be able to optimize your fundraising efforts.