Monday, March 9, 2009

Return to Sender...

If you're like me, you greet the mailbox with baited breath every afternoon after you send out your 100 amazingly awesome fundraising letters. Every day there are three things you can find in your mailbox: donations (yaaaay!), emptiness (booooo!) or even worse than nothing, returned letters (booo! hiss!).

That little stamp on the envelope, giving you the postal equivalent of the finger, pointing back to your return address with the words: "Undeliverable, Return to Sender" really stinks. Hopefully you won't get many, but if you get a 10% failure rate from some old addresses, that's still 10 letters returned!

So here's your action plan for dealing with those returned letters:

1. Do not forget your returned letters.
Stack them up somewhere and process them all together after a few days have passed and it seems like you have gotten them all (or most of them!) back.

2. Match your returned letters against your Excel spreadsheet.
I mark my donor information this way:
- Returned letter, no alternate contact: I color the entire line of info for the donor in red and mark it in bold italics.
- Returned letter, with alternate contact (like email): I only bold/red/italicize the bad information.

3. Start looking for alternative contact information for those donors that you only had an address for:
- Call your family or friends, ask for an email address or a different mailing address. This works well for me: I email my mother the names of the returned letter recipients that she knew. She found addresses from her address book that were newer than mine, and email addresses for some as well.
- Hit up "the Google" and try to find alternate contact information. Good sites for this, beyond Google:
- & are good social networking sites where you might find old friends.

4. Process the envelopes themselves
- You should have self-addressed stamped envelopes in these returned letters: Separate them out and keep them for future letters!
- You might also have business cards or magnets, or other "takeaway items" you included in your envelopes, be sure to save those.
- Save your letter, if it's not personalized to the donor, or doesn't have a deadline that's too close to use anymore.
- Save the notecards that you wrote, in case you find a working address.

5. Make contact!
- Contact each "returned donor by whatever alternative you can find. If it's email, dust off the email you sent out to your friends, and send it to the donor anew.
- Resend your donation letters to donors for whom you have revised mailing addresses. Use a fresh envelope!

6. Use up your SASEs!
After you find new data and send out your fundraising information, find a way to use up any leftover self-addressed stamped envelopes that you still have! If you have four left over, figure out four new people to mail.
- Call your parents again, tell them who you have contacted, ask them for fresh suggestions. When I contacted my mother to ask her for suggestions, even before I told her who I had contacted, she blurted out three names I never would have thought of! You've been looking at your donor list for awhile now, and your brain has probably gotten a little bit stale with new ideas.
- Sit down with your spouse or a close friend and brainstorm with them. Who would they contact that might be a mutual friend of yours?
Reuse any letters that don't have personalization or aren't out-of-date, and send them with your SASE's.

Hopefully these tips will hel pyou deal with returned letters. They're always a downer to find in your mailbox, but remember that a returned letter is just the price of doing a letter-writing campaign. Don't be disappointed, use the returned letter as an opportunity to reach out in a different way, or ask someone else to donate!

Good luck and GO TEAM!

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