How’s your list, these days? Is it clean and comprehensive or dirty and dead?
Know this: For all of the great letters you send (and maybe I write for you?), if your list is a-rife with bad addresses and names of people who just don’t care about what you do, whatever we say is worthless. Like a list broker friend would say… “It’s all about the list.” As a writer, I reluctantly agree (but don’t tell her that!)
If you’re sending paper mail, the first thing to do is an NCOA (National Change of Address: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Change_Of_Address) review. If it’s email, there are a nice handful of email validation programs that will tell you if an address is even good or not. Both of these steps are good, but really don’t get to where the money is… whether anyone who gets your mail even cares.
This is a lot harder to decide, and has a lot to do with how you accumulated your names. Are they former clients (alumni/patients) or family (grandparents/parents)? Then at least they know you and have experienced your great work. Are they recommended by board members or close friends? Super – and remind your new prospect how you got his or her name. If they attended an event, that’s good, they heard your message from you directly, and may have fallen in love with your cause. However you got the names on your list, they need to care about you… and you can’t force that, regardless of how worthy you are.
So get to know why people are on your list. Ask them why they’re there, and how you can get more like ‘em. Because having a list is only the start… you need to work the list!