Response Rates to Expect in Direct Mail Fundraising with Acquisition and Renewal Appeal Letters
What kind of response rates do your direct mail
fundraising letters generate?
That’s the most common question I’m asked by
potential clients. And it’s a good question, since
non-profit organizations need the highest response
they can get in today’s competitive environment. Direct
mail is an expensive way to raise funds if your
response rates are low and your average gift is
So what’s an acceptable response rate? That
depends on the kind of mailing we’re talking about.
Acquisition mailings (designed to acquire
new donors) typically generate low response rates. An
acceptable response rate with an acquisition mailing
is somewhere between 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent. A
response rate of only half of one percent might not
sound adequate to you, but it’s acceptable if your
costs are low or your average gift is high.
Remember that generating a high response rate in an
acquisition mailing is more important than receiving a
high average gift, since the whole point of an
acquisition mailing is to acquire donors. The higher
your response rate, the more donors you acquire. And
the more donors you acquire, the more donors you
can appeal to in coming months, leading to higher
revenue over time.
Renewal mailings (designed to obtain gifts
from existing donors) typically generate higher
response rates. An acceptable response rate with a
renewal mailing is somewhere between 5 percent
and 35 percent. Response rates for renewal mailings
are higher than rates for acquisition mailings because
the recipients already know you, trust you and have
given to you before.
Remember that your response rate does not tell you
enough. It only tells you the percentage of people who
responded to your mailing. Your response rate, even if
it’s remarkably high, can’t tell you if you made money,
lost money or broke even. It can’t tell you how much
you spent to raise a dollar (or pound or yen). It can’t
tell you how much you spent per donation. Or your
return on investment.
If you’d like to boost your response rates, work on your
envelope. Learn how with
Response Rates and Income with Simply Irresistible
Fundraising Letter Envelopes, Handbook 18 in
the Hands-on Fundraising Series from Andrew