Having been a fundraiser for longer than I’d care to admit, I’ve opened my fair share of BREs. I always looked forward to the replies that were a little different: ones that included a note from the donor; others where the donor or prospect took the time to correct all the grammatical errors in our direct mail appeals (admit it, you’ve received these); and, of course, the ones that included a ‘different from average’ donation.

However, most of the reply coupons were pretty standard: donations were noted and processed, and those marked ‘deceased’ caused a brief moment of sadness before the donor was marked as such in the database.

A letter I received recently from Carefor Health and Community Services made a light bulb go off over my head when it comes to those latter, deceased, donors.

Here’s the background.  If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know that I lost my beloved Grandmother to cancer late last year.  What you wouldn’t know is that I’ve been living in her house since May while our house undergoes a major renovation. As a result, I’m getting all of her mail and, for the first time in my life, I’m on the other end of that BRE: I’m the one who is writing ‘deceased’ on reply coupons and returning them to the many charities my grandmother supported.

I suspect most of those charities are doing what I used to do: noting the information in the database and moving on. But have any of them taken the time to think this through? Is there an opportunity here? Room for engagement?

Check out this brilliant letter I received a few weeks after returning a reply coupon to Carefor (click to see the full-size letter!)



What’s brilliant about this?

  • They correctly assumed that someone close to the deceased individual would be receiving the letter (even if we had decided to immediately sell the house, we still would have had my grandmother’s mail forwarded for quite some time).
  • They also correctly assumed that I would have a warm response to their cause. In fact, Carefor nurses and personal support workers were a big part of my grandmother’s life during her last few months. I met them and got to know them during that difficult time.
  • They were smart to point out my grandmother’s history of giving. I had no idea she’d been a donor for so long!

You know what? This letter triggered all the right responses in me: it had an emotional impact. Know what else? I went online and gave.

This post was written by Leah Eustace, ACFRE, former Principal and Chief Idea Goddess at Good Works.