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Top 10 Fundraising Mistakes to AVOID

What NOT to do in your next appeal.

After years of helping a variety of clients send successful direct mail campaigns, we have had the opportunity to test what raises the most money – and what doesn’t work. Here are the top 10 fundraising mistakes to avoid to succeed with your next direct mail appeal:


  • Don’t assume donors will read the whole thing. Just like you, your donors are busy & in a hurry. So make your letters easy to skim, and make the important things stand out! Use bolded text for the important things (the ask!) to make it impossible to miss.
  • Don’t hide the need for help. Why should your supporters help you out if you paint the picture that everything is going okay? Make it clear how important their gift is and what a difference it will make.
  • Don’t use big numbers. Donors are more likely to help when they can understand how solvable a problem is, not how big. Do the math for them and tell them “Your gift of $15 a month will feed a family for a year!”
  • Don’t be vague. Be specific about how a donation will change things. ”Your gift of just $30 today will feed 14 meals to a dog at the shelter!” gives a clear picture of what a donor’s gift will do.
  • Don’t ask donors to “consider” gifts. Instead, ask your donor outright to make a gift! If you ask people to consider a gift, or offer prayers, or send positive thoughts, that’s what they will do – and you won’t raise money. Be straightforward with your donors, they can handle it!
  • Don’t wait to mail. If you have a matching grant or plan to send multiple appeals, don’t delay for the small details.
  • Don’t make it about your organization. Instead, make it about what the donor can do to make a difference! Take out the words “we” or “our” – make the donor the hero and tell them, “You can feed a child for a week!”
  • Don’t introduce new ideas in the PS message. Everyone reads the PS message, so make it count! Don’t distract donors by asking them to watch a video or visit your website or share the story with a friend. Always ask for a gift in the PS, and make it clear what their donation will help accomplish.
  • Don’t ask for too much. Make it easy for your donors to say “Yes, I’ll give today!” by starting the ask amounts small. More donors will give if you start the gift asks at less than $50, which gives you the opportunity to continue building your donor pool and your ask amounts.
  • Don’t tell the wrong story. Instead of telling the long story of how someone got into a bad situation and listing out the details a donor doesn’t have any control over, tell the donors how they can make a difference today. If a problem feels uncontrollable, they are far less likely to give. Give them control over making a difference – with their gift.

Ready to send direct mail to your donors, but not sure how? Click here to see how easy it can be with AppealMaker! With AppealMaker, you gain access to:

  • Templates that are easy to quickly customize, making the design process so much easier.
  • Turn times of 3 days, from order to out-the-door, so your appeal can be in your donor’s hands in record time.
  • Plus, only pay for the exact amount of pieces you send & pricing always includes postage!
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