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Building a Strong Foundation on DMAW’s Direct Mail 101

By Grace Finn

I am new to fundraising. In fact, prior to two months ago I had never solicited funds in my life.   Luckily, there were quite a few of us in the audience who were just now entering the world of direct Mail. But I was keen to learn about the art and science of Direct Mail from those who do it best. Throughout the course of the day, I picked out three ideas that struck me most.  They are:

Who is your Audience?

  • My grandmother lives in Michigan and wears elastic waist pants.  While she may not be my fashion icon, she is certainly a gem.  Plus she is a member of my target market!  Often, I am guilty for responding to a package as a twenty-something millennial.  I then have to step back and think: W.W.G.T. or What Would Grandma Think?  By thinking that, I am able consider how campaigns specifically market to donors.  Donors, of any age, want to be empowered and feel appreciated for their efforts.  And they should be!  Showing thanks- true gratitude- allows an organization to continue its quality work, while gathering quality donors.

Garbage In/Garbage Out:

  • I had never heard this phrase before several presenters used it.  But I find it fitting.  What you put into your work, database, campaigns, you will get back.  So make it good stuff!  Staying organized from the beginning, be thoughtful in your data collections, and use the best parts of your data.   Aim for high quality always, or else you will receive nothing but garbage back.  I like to think of it as setting a high bar, for yourself and your donors.   Don’t make garbage and you won’t get garbage back.  Is seems so simple, but there are a lot of people, steps and processes in place.  But it is worth it.

Ace the Test:

  • By being open to different ideas, even if some are outside of the box- you can diversify campaigns and possibly break your control.  But it is not enough to just be bold, you have to test, test, and re-test to make sure it’s not a fluke.   But testing is just as much about finding out what does NOT work, as it is about finding what DOES work.  Crossing things off the list allows you to truely continue getting to know your donors.  Plus, testing is a great way of re-evaluating data, trying new lists or telefundraising techniques and expanding your own database.


After DM101, as I was stuck in traffic, I kept thinking about the day’s events.  As a beginner, I left the lecture hall with a large list of questions, but that was okay with me.  The pieces are starting to fall into place, and each question I ask is getting me closer to truly understanding and making substantive contributions to the art and science of fundraising.


Grace Finn photoGrace Finn is a Campaign Specialist with Catholic Relief Services.   She can be reached at