If you are a not-for-profit or civic organization who regularly seeks donors to contribute to your organization, this is an important article to read. More than ever, the money that you are trying to raise is critical in supporting your survival and mission. You know how important it is to retain and recruit regular donors. Without them, your organization will not be able to maintain its mission. When it comes time to tell your organization’s story to prospective supporters, utilizing variable data is key to making your campaign come off without a hitch.

The term “variable data” means that content changes and is personalized to each of your recipients. Ask yourself: how are you addressing your supporters in printed letters that you mail? By using variable data, which includes a database and some fancy software, the mailing pieces that you send can be uniquely personalized to yield a far better return on your investment.


Personalization can range from a recipient’s first name appearing in a burst on an outer envelope, to populating recent donations into a form. It could even include unique images based on the personal demographics of your recipient. All of these methods can be utilized creatively for more effective fundraising campaigns for your organization.

Here are some of the major benefits you can expect when using variable data for your next fundraising campaign.

Better Connection

Personalization makes an unparalleled connection. At the most basic level, imagine how you react to a letter greeting you as “Dear Friend” versus “Dear Amy.” Simply inserting a recipient’s first name into the salutation of the letter could have a positive impact on the connections you make with your prospective donors and, most importantly, in determining if they will continue reading your appeal for contributions.

Better Response Rates

When you make a better connection expect better response rates. Connecting on an emotional level captures your prospective donors and allows you to more thoroughly explain your need. Including variable data on the outer envelope, in addition to your recipient’s mailing address, can have positive results in how many people open the envelope. After all, they need to open the envelope before reading your carefully crafted and personalized communications inside. Once opened, including a pre-completed donation form makes it very easy for them to submit a check and mail it back.

Better Fundraising

When you utilize variable data in a donation form, you may even reference what the donor has contributed in the past and persuade them to increase that amount in strategic increments. We call these increasing dollar increments “bumps,” and they can have a big influence on increasing a donor’s gift. The bumps can be presented as a percentage increase from their previous gift or gifts. For example, a bump can be +50%, +25%, +15% whether or not you include their previous gift value.

Better Awareness

So where do you get this variable data stuff? You must keep good records and actively manage a customer relationship management (CRM) database of activity between you and your supporters. Why? Because if you can categorize your supporters, you can more specifically speak to them and touch them in a way which will result in a larger or more frequent contributions and gifts. The data that you collect about your donors can be leveraged for specific topics or issues that are most relevant to them. CRM software such as Salesforce or FileMaker can be valuable tools for non-profits when managing the data and exporting targeted groups.

Next Steps

If you are searching for ways to maximize return on investment for your next fundraising mailing, contact Trillion here or give us a call at 908.219.4703. Design fees are typically the smallest expense when mailing fundraising appeals. When completed and planned correctly, the design of your appeal mailings can have a big impact on your bottom line. If you want to see some of our fundraising design work, click here.