an insider secret to direct mail fundraising

April 15, 2015 |

I want to let you in on an insider secret that direct mail fundraising experts use to raise millions of dollars. It’s a strategy you can use to improve your direct mail. In fact, this strategy will help all your fundraising and marketing.

Before I give you that fundraising secret, you have to know about a man I met a couple of years ago. He said something to me that I can’t get out of my mind. He said to me:

“I woke up one morning outside of Las Vegas in a dry storm drain. I looked at the 2 other drugged-out guys I was sharing that concrete box with and thought to myself, ‘Today I’m changing my life or this meth is gonna do me.’”

The crazy thing was that this man who was telling me his story looked like your favorite mechanic or your electrician. He was middle aged with close-cropped graying hair. His brown work shirt was clean and starched. He looked . . . well, he looked normal. But when I looked closely at him sitting across the table, I could see the scars — the lines and signs of hard, hard living. But there was also peace. He had a calmness in his shy smile that made his story of living in that storm drain in the desert so surreal.

He was telling me how he had gone from living on meth to living a normal life with a car, an apartment and real relationships.

I mean, what does it take to go from so strung out on meth that you’re living in a storm drain to holding down a job and living a normal life?

And that’s the secret to improving your direct mail. It’s the secret to any fundraising. Really, it’s the secret to any marketing or communications:

Tell a story.

Tell a true story of a real person.

And connect it to your cause or your ministry.

One of the blessings I have in my job is that I get to interview people who have been changed by our clients’ work. I’m honored to hear these stories of changed lives and hearts. Their stories change me and change our team before they ever get in front of a donor or prospective donor. More times than not, I have to fight to control my emotions as someone talks about their journey through pain and loss. It’s a holy and wonderful moment. Let a donor experience it.

People connect with stories. Donors must hear the stories of people in need and people who have been helped.

Don’t get enamored by statistics or demographics. Connect me with a person if you want my heart and my support.

And it turns out there’s some interesting science out there about the power of storytelling. It really is the most effective way to engage people.

What about you, wouldn’t you love to know how someone goes from living in a storm drain to having a regular life? How do you use stories? How have you seen the power from telling stories? I’d love to hear your story!


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: RestrictedData)

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2 Responses to “an insider secret to direct mail fundraising”

  1. Jen Harp says:

    Brilliantly said, and oh so very true! Thanks for sharing this secret!

  2. […] Tell me a story packed with heart not stats. It’s funny how stories stick, I told a story in a blog a few months ago about a man I met that had a lived in a storm drain outside of Las Vegas. I’ve had more people […]

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