In his November newsletter, direct mail maven Mal Warwick tells this story.

A donor makes a first gift of $5 in response to an advocacy group in 1984.

Then makes 25 more gifts over the next 22 years, totaling $425.

Then makes a bequest of $90,000 in 2007!

Many — maybe most — major charities and cause groups have stories like this.

With the “old fogies” who populate today's direct mail donor universe moving on in age, perhaps we'll hear more and more of them … what Mal call's “the real payoff of direct mail fundraising.”

Yes, your small gift fundraising program — probably a combination of negative income prospecting and positive income donor upgrading & cultivation — must meet a “here and now” positive return on investment.

But don't overlook the downstream value of small gift donors in terms of ultimate major contributions, including bequests. Smart development VPs recognize that small gift donor programs — even when located “over there in membership's turf” — are a proven breeding ground for the blockbuster contributions.

And when they come in, you direct mail folks, take the credit you deserve! Indeed, you have a lot to offer to the bequest prospecting effort … if you're not already in that loop, invite yourself in today.

Roger & Tom

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