Variable Data Printing (VDP) enables the mass customization of documents via digital print technology, and therefore helps you target your audience by adding personalization to your important customer communications. The earliest forms of personalization often took the form of using someone’s name often in a letter or postcard. As personalization techniques have evolved, relevant messaging is shown to have more impact on response rates.

There are cost effective ways to incorporate relevant messaging into your letter. Start by using the same base letter for everyone, but reserve one paragraph that includes language relating to the recipient’s connection to your organization: “As a past donor and volunteer…” or “As a 1996 graduate, you recall…”

Another proven personalization technique is to reference the donor’s last gift date and gift amount in the letter. This serves two purposes. First, it gives you an opportunity to again thank them for their last gift and remind them of the benefits it provided. Second, by referencing the date you are gently reminding the donor that it is time to renew their gift. Many donors think they made their last gift more recently than they actually did.

Incorporating variable data into an appeal letter makes sense to almost everyone. So what are the drawbacks? You need an accurate and up-to-date database containing the variable information you want to use. If your database is not in good enough condition to support a VDP strategy, you will do more harm than good in trying to personalize your letter. Put together a plan to gradually enhance your database with the information you think best resonates with your audience.

There are many organizations currently competing for donor dollars. Using variable messaging to segments within your database will put you in a better position to compete for those dollars. Future blog posts will discuss effective letter content and the information your donors want to read.

— George Newstedt