Fundraising: Direct Mail

There are two types of direct mail solicitation - prospecting, or sending mail to a list that has never contributed to you before, and re-solicitation, which is used to generate income from people who have given to you before. An effective direct mail plan will help develop a reliable list of donors for your campaign that you can go back to multiple times.


Building your list of direct mail donors, or prospecting, simply means sending a fundraising mailing to a list that has never contributed to you before. On average, prospecting will only yield a return of 1-2%; production and mailing costs will often reach 100% of your revenue.

Is it Worth the Cost?

Yes. Prospecting is not about raising money outright, it's about identifying new donors who can be re-solicited in the future, usually multiple times.


Prospects who become donors should be solicited at least three times throughout your campaign. Re-solicitation mailings generally yield a return of 5-10% and will cost approximately 10-20% of your revenue.

What Should it Look Like?

Prospecting: Appealing enough to engage a first-time donor. Re-solicitation: More personal, always thanking them for their past support.

Don't Forget to Plan

It's important to note that you should plan for any mailing to take a full six weeks to reach their full yield.

Tips for Prospecting

  • Make sure you have a good list from a state party or allied organization; you will be more likely to get a better yield.
  • Ask for a specific contribution early on and repeat several times throughout.
  • Keep paragraphs short and use conversational language.
  • Use underlining, italics and bold type to underscore key points.
  • Reiterate your message and appeal to the interests and emotions of your prospects.
  • Be specific with your ask and when describing how funds will be used.
  • Use a compelling P.S. under your signature; it is the most frequently read part of the letter.
  • Personalize letters by crossing out the typed salutation and handwriting the first name to donors you know; writing a very short personal note at the close; and hand-signing letters.
  • Attract readers by printing an urgent message on the outer envelope.
  • Include a "credentializer" such as a news clip or list of endorsements to lend credibility.
  • Include a response envelope and donor card to make responding as easy for the donor as possible.