The enhanced magic of “bounce backs” in fundraising

Lift Monday: A series about the art and science of “Lifts” in direct mail fundraising.

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My favorite type of direct mail lift is the kind you ask the donor to send back: bounce backs.

Ideally, there’s some kind of logical reason you’ve sent them something and they send it back, usually to sign their name and it will end up in the hands of someone who will appreciate it.

Here are some examples from my experience:

  • Shipping label. When your offer is for donors to cover shipping costs for donated gifts-in-kind (food, medical supplies, tools, etc.) The donor signs the label (on actual crack-and-peel sticker paper works best by far) and it will be attached to a box or container in the shipment. This has proved incredibly successful more than once.
  • Bookplates. When the offer is books (including Bibles), a sticker (or a sheet of stickers) that say something like “This book is a donation of [Ms. Edna Q. Donor]” (the name can be personalized on the bookplate or you can ask the donor to write their name).
  • Greeting cards. Something the donor signs that will be seen by a beneficiary: Get well soon, thinking of you, praying for you …
  • Practical items that can fit in an envelope, such as a ruler or protractor for students.

    Sometimes the logic for the bounce back is quite thin: I’ve sent you this [item] so you could see it for yourself and realize what an incredible difference your donation can make… And really, some seriously illogical bounce backs do just fine.

    It should go without saying that you should do what you say you’ll do with the bounce backs that bounce back. It’s unethical to do otherwise.

    It’s possible to do a type of bounce back in digital fundraising. It’s just that the donor doesn’t get to handle the thing that will end up in the hands of someone they helped.

    Here’s a bounce back shipping label:

    Shipping-label

    Read the other Lift Monday posts


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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