A little letter & being willing to ask

I’ve been working a few days a week this year with a small charity. So small that when I asked at the interview “what’s my marketing budget” they said “what marketing budget?”. So I’m getting a chance to flex my “total and utter zero” budget muscles.

And in a very, very competitive market. There are 19,000 charities in Australia – and an estimated 680,000 other “not for profit” organisations out there. That’s a LOT of organisations hitting up a very small population.

One little campaign I’ve run this year – providing a 1500% return on investment – reminded me the power of ASKING for things – be it a sale, a donation or a favour.

A little background…

This charity (Western Chances) attracts most of its funds from Foundations and business donations. But it had never written to the people in these businesses and foundation AS people, as individuals.

So I thought, what can it hurt? After all, I tell people in business they can get more blood out of a stone when it comes to selling a product or service, so why not when it comes to selling “feeling good” by donating to a charity?

We didn’t have a large database to start with and then the list was whittled down further, as some people just weren’t appropriate to hit up again.

I ended up with a very short list of just 250 people.

I did a bit of an estimate and thought I’d probably be able to raise around $1,000. Not earth shattering, but every little bit counts.

As I didn’t have any cash, I couldn’t do anything fancy with design or brochures. I had to write a good old-fashion letter.

And I didn’t re-invent the wheel. I used a great letter writing guide provided to us (free) by Our Community to work out the structure. I included a specific appeal we were working towards and a true story from one of our beneficiaries in the letter.

Then I laid out in Word a one page donation form, with some specific amounts people could donate and what it would translate into. And I’m no graphics whiz, I just made sure it allowed for everything I needed to capture information and make it easy for them to donate.

Then I had the issue of postage. So I continue on the “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” trail and made a phone call request to a larger corporate supporter, which landed us a committment to send the mail-out for us. So the “real” cost to the charity was about a day of my time, 500 sheets of paper and 250 envelopes. Let’s say an even $500.

So the letters were mailed and I thought…let’s see how we go. If I can double the investment, it will be a good result.

So how did we go?

Well, we ended up making awhopping $7,500 from those 250 letters. More than 7.5 times what we expected to make and 15 times what its cost was – a 1500% return on investment.

And if it had bombed? Well, we were only out $500.

And an interesting thing happened. It wasn’t a lot of small donations – it was around 15 larger ones. So the same list will be worth targeting in another 6 months, as I only need another 15 generous people – 6% of the list – to donate and possibly hit a similar target.

So I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!