People send money because they're in the habit of sending money by mail. Charity is habit forming; giving by mail is a special variety of this benign affliction. When he became involved in direct mail fund raising in the late 70s, he was told that only about one in four adults Americans were "mail responsive" – that is, susceptible to offers or appeals by mail. By the turn of the century, according to the Simmons Market Research Bureau, two out of every three adults were buying goods or services by mail or phone every year. Many purchases implied telemarketing – but there's no doubt Americans are now more mail responsive.
Surveys also reflect the growing importance of direct mail benefits in the fund raising process. Research shows that fund raising letters are the top source of new gifts to charity in America.
People send money because they support organizations like yours. Your donors are not yours alone, no matter what you think. Because they have special interests, hobbies and distinct beliefs, they may support several similar organizations. A dog owner, for example, may contribute to half a dozen organizations that have some connection to dogs or a wildlife protection group. A person who sees himself as an environmentalist might be found on the membership rolls of five or six ecology-related groups: one dedicated to land conservation, another to protecting the wilderness, a third to saving endangered species or the rain forest and so on. There are patterns in people's lives. Your appeal is most likely to bear fruit if it fits squarely into one of those patterns.
People send money because their gifts will make a difference. Donors want to be convinced that their investment in your enterprise – their charitable gifts – will achieve some worthy aim. That's why so many donors express concern about high fund raising and administrative costs. It's also why successful opportunities for funds often quantify the impact of a gift: $ 35 to buy a school uniform, $ 40 for a stethoscope, $ 7 to feed a child for a day. Donors want to feel good about their gifts. Your donors are striving to be effective human beings. You help them by demonstrating just how effective they really are.
People send money because gifts will accomplish something right now. Urgency is a necessary element in a fund rising letter. Implicitly or explicitly, every successful appeal has a deadline: the end of the year, the opening of the school, the deadline for the matching grant, the limited press run on the book available as a premium. But the strong attraction in circumstances such as these is best illustrated if no such urgent conditions apply. If the money your donor sends you this week will not make a difference right away, should not the donor send money to some other charity that has asked for donor support and urgently needs it?
People send money because you give them the opportunity to "belong" – as a member, friend, or supporter – and then you help them fight loneliness. Your most fundamental task as a fundraiser is to build relationships with your donors. That's why there are so many organizations use membership programs, giving clubs and monthly gift societies. The process of solicitation itself can help build healthy relationships. Shut-ins, for example, or older people with distant family and few friends, may eagerly anticipate the letters you send. Most of us are social animals, forever seeking companionship.