“Stop Mailing The Major Donors!”


“Stop Mailing The Major Donors!”

You’ve probably heard that more than once from your CEO or members of your Board.  After all, they are all being personally cultivated by the major gifts department.

Several years ago, we had a heated conversation with a group of development directors about suppressing major donors from the direct mail cultivation schedule. Of course, the rule of thumb is to absolutely limit or suppress any donor who makes the request. But should you really drop all of your major donors just because of a few complaints or because you think they are already being properly cultivated?

One development director decided to conduct a test to measure the impact. He took a sample of 500 major donors who had made at least one gift of $500+ the previous year. They wrote all 500 donors and attached a list of all 12 of the mail appeals that they were scheduled to receive that coming year. They said they would mail them all 12 of the appeals unless they received specific instructions from the donors. Of the 500 in the group, 186 wrote back and designated the specific mailings they wanted during the next 12-month mailing cycle. Interestingly, the most mailings anyone selected was three.

At the end of the year, they compared the group that received all 12 mailings versus the group that had self-identified those mailings that were of most interest. The result? The donors who received all 12 mailings gave 35% more than the ones who selected their particular appeal.  

What did the development director learn?  “I learned that unless a major donor asks to limit his/her mailings, they should stay with the normal cultivation strategy. You never know when something will strike a donor’s fancy. Each appeal is different.”

Do you limit your mailings to donors?


By: Chip Grizzard

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