Direct Mail for your Synagogue's High Holy Days Appeal Description, resources and Q&A
The webinar addressed how to run a direct mail campaign for a High Holy Day appeal. The presenters discussed the steps necessary in order to run an effective campaign as well as to create an effective letter. This webinar was designed for finance/fund raising committee members, board members, presidents, executive directors or those synagogue members interested in or responsible for raising funds through a High Holy Day Appeal at their synagogue.
The webinar was being presented by Tiffany Neil and Amy Sukol from the direct mail firm of Lautman Maska & Neil. Tiffany and Amy have both received the designation as "Certified Fund Raising Executives" from the international organization of Fund Raising Professionals. They have extensive experience working with not for profit organizations in the area of direct mail campaigns.
Q: I'm in a 60 member congregation. We dont
have a synagogue office and all our work is done by volunteers. How
does/will the material [presented in the webinar] apply to a small
Every congregation regardless of size
can send a warm letter to members asking them to make a special gift
around the time of the High Holy Days. You could, for example, send
it on the personal letterhead of the President and talk about the need
for gifts. Return contributions could go to the Treasurer. The same
principles of letter writing apply regardless of how many letters will
The reply form can be very simple you can ask everyone for the
same amount of money. This will help with the ease of getting it out.
there an effective way to [use the principles of direct mail] online?
How should we be using the internet and other technology in reaching
out during an appeal?
One excellent way to use the internet
is to support the mailing you are preparing for the High Holy Days. If
you have a website, you can have a button on the home page that says
read more about and donate now. On the web, you can include
photos and more detail to support the story you are telling in the
letter things that are hard to do in a fundraising letter.
If you have email addresses
for the members to whom you will be sending the High Holy Day appeal,
you should send them an email a few days after you send the mailing.
The email should contain the same basic case for support that the
letter has but try to keep the email message to 150 words or fewer.
Then, there can be a donate now button in the email that links to the
website. There are many inexpensive companies that can send email for
you, or if there are not too many addresses you can send it from your
own email server.
Q: What are your thoughts about
whether or not to send direct mail to donors who we have [identified]
as potential big donors folks who we want to woo face to face? Is
there a risk in sending them direct mail?
As long as the message is consistent
with what they have been asked to support previously, there is no harm
in sending a mailing. If you are going to solicit someone for a
capital gift or other special contribution, you may not want to send
them the general annual support letter as it may complicate the ask.
Otherwise, as long as you are asking for an appropriate amount of
money, it can support your efforts. You can even personalize the
letters to these donors by pulling them out and handwriting a note on
the top that says Id love to find time to talk to you in person about
this and then provide a phone number. We strongly recommend that you
call all major donors to follow up on the mailing either to say
thank you if they made a contribution, or to request a meeting.
Q: For years, our president has
asked for funds through a High Holy Day appeal on Kol Nidre. We have
never done direct mail for this purpose before. Given the economy, do
you think this is a good time to use direct mail, even considering
dropping the "ask" on Kol Nidre? What about follow-up?
In some ways, it is more
important than ever to ensure that your cause remains front of mind
with donors. You can use the mail to support the message that is made
during Kol Nidre to give people another way to support you. Reference
in the letter that this is a request the member usually receives during
Kol Nidre. It all supports the synagogue and your core needs so the
messages can reinforce one another. Remember, every other group will
be asking your members for support around this time you want to make
sure you are with them.
Q: When should the High Holy Days letter go out in the mail?
If you are mailing mostly donors, we
recommend mailing 4-5 weeks before Rosh Hashanah. If you are mailing
mostly non-donors (or if this is your first appeal ever) you can mail
closer to the holiday so there is less competition to get the attention
Q: What is a good strategy to
maximize the gift? How do you get someone to send in $1000 rather than
$100? For a major, annual campaign shouldn't you have personal contact?
The best strategy to maximize the gift
is to make sure you make it very easy to say yes and the best way to
do that is to ask them for a gift they are comfortable making, and then
give them the chance to give more. Ideally, the amount you ask for
should be based on their last gift. If a person gave $100 last, you
should ask for $100, $150 or $200 ideally, its so easy for them to
say yes to $100 that they will upgrade to $150.
far as having personal contact it is a great thing whenever
possible. We recommend following up letters with a personal phone call
to major donors and handwriting a note on their letter (something like
Ill give you a call to talk more about this). In some cases, a
donor may prefer to write a check and not meet, but if the gift is not
what you wanted, you can call and say thank you and schedule a time
to sit down.
Q: Most members already receive
quarterly statements from us throughout the year. [Given that, we see]
two possible approaches to Direct Mail:
Additional mailings (with the increased expenses and additional request for attention, but keeping messages distinct)
Include the appeal with a statement mailing (saving postage and asking for a gift when they are already making a payment).
What are the pros and cons and what should be done differently if the appeal is mailed with a membership statement?
Appeal mailings are most effective when there is just one ask in
the package. For that reason, we dont recommend sending it along with
a membership dues billing request. People can easily say yes to the
dues request and ignore the 2nd ask. With a separate mailing, you can
clearly make the case for the special contribution.
Q: Is there a role for a personal handwritten note in each ask or on "major" asks?
YES! A handwritten note (or even a handwritten envelope) can go a
long way to getting a large gift. Depending on how many letters you
are sending (and what resources you have available) we recommend using
this technique on as many pieces as possible. Start with the largest
donors and work your way down until you run out of energy (or
Q: What is the best way to integrate a phone-a-thon
with a direct mail campaign? Do you use the same case studies or key
words or just the same themes?
We recommend that you send
the mailing first, give people about two weeks to respond and then
start calling people. We recommend calling everyone whom you mailed
say thank you to the people who made a gift (and see if they have any
questions), and using the same basic case in the letter, appeal to the
people who have not made a gift yet. The script should be fairly
short, so you may not have time to go through the whole story that was
in the letter, but you can pick up the same theme. For example, if the
letter talks about someone who went to classes at the synagogue, the
phone script can talk about these classes in general.
Q: Could the [direct mail/campaign] letter come from the rabbi?
Yes. Consider the culture of
your synagogue. Would there be more impact if the letter comes from
the rabbi or from the synagogue president? You might also consider
having the letter come from the chairperson of the campaign. Think
about how the person signing the letter will impact the reader. Who in
the congregation will have the biggest impact on the potential donors
Q: Should we remind [donors] of how much they gave in last year's appeal and ask them to give more this year?
Subtly. What we recommend doing is including the amount they gave
last year as the least amount you request and then request larger
gifts. There are mixed testing results about saying specifically last
year you gave $xx so what we recommend is saying your gift of $LAST,
$LAST * 1.5 or $Last * 2 would really help. On the reply form, always
give people the ability to give other many people will give you
more. All that said, this is a good year to try to get any gift. It
may be a challenge to get larger gifts in this economy.