Different Strokes for Different Folks

3541343149_906015c052Have you ever received an appeal letter from an organization you’ve donated to for years and they make no mention of your previous donations?  Or maybe you get a letter that thanks you for your past support and you’ve never donated to this organization. Grrrr.

This is why is you need to know your audience and personalize your letters as much as possible. Don’t worry, you can use some of the same content in all your letters.

Spend  some time going through your records to get information about your donors and segment them into different groups.  A good database will help with that.

Here are some ideas for segmenting your lists and ways to personalize letters for different donor groups.

Current donors

You’ll have the most luck with your current donors.  Ideally, your donors will donate again and give a higher amount. This may not happen if you haven’t been keeping in touch throughout the year.

Let these donors know how much you appreciated their previous gift and include the amount of that gift.  Donors don’t always remember what they gave last time and you want to help them out so they don’t have to spend time searching their records.

First-time donors

The biggest attrition comes between the first and second gift.  Show these donors a little extra love right now.  You don’t want to lose them. A few weeks before you mail your year-end appeal, send them a special thank you email or postcard with a specific example of how they helped you make a difference

Lapsed donors

Don’t write off these donors yet, especially if they’ve donated within the last few years.  Let them know you miss them and want them back.

At some point, you’ll want to go through your list of lapsed donors to see which ones you should keep following up with. 4 Tips: When to Remove a Lapsed Donor from Your Database

Event attendees

If someone has attended one of your fundraising or cultivation events, mention how great it was to see her at that event.

Something else to remember– After you hold an event, be sure to send thank you notes to all attendees.


Volunteers are another potential donor group.  After all, they should be passionate about your work.  You’ll have better luck if they feel appreciated.

Some volunteers may not have the means to give or feel their time is their gift, but they might be able to get their friends or parents to donate.

Other supporters

You can send appeals to newsletter subscribers and social media followers who are not donors.  Thank them for their interest in your mission or find some other way to connect.

You may have traded or bought mailing lists, which won’t bring you as much success as you’ll have with current donors and supporters. Try to find a connection between their interests and your organization, and make a good impression.

I recently received appeal letters from two organizations I’ve never supported.  One organization sent two letters – one that was addressed correctly and one that wasn’t.  In the letter from the other organization, the salutation read Dear Ms. A.  I was not impressed.

Handwritten notes

You’ll want to include a short handwritten note on all your appeal letters.  Use some of the same personal information you’ve gathered.  If it’s impossible for your organization to create different letters, then tailor these handwritten notes to each donor.

Make it personal

Don’t send out a generic appeal letter.  You need different strokes for different folks.

Here is some more information to help you make your donor communications more personal and other ways you can segment your lists.

Automation Kills

10 Ways to Segment Your Donors to Improve Fundraising Effectiveness

How to Segment Your Donors & Personalize Communication to get Higher Response Rates

Photo by annilove via Flickr

One thought on “Different Strokes for Different Folks

  1. […] Are you sending all your donors the same appeal letter and thank you letter?   Stop doing that. At the very least, create different letters for new donors and repeat donors.  Acknowledge a donor’s past support or upgrade.  You can also personalize letters to lapsed donors, event attendees, or volunteers. Different Strokes for Different Folks […]


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