This is the frequently asked questions page of Alan Sharpe, direct mail fundraising copywriter, consultant and coach. If you do not find the answers you need here, write us at the address at the bottom of this page.
Q. Who are you and what do you do?
A. I help non-profit organizations across North America to attract new donors, build relationships and retain loyal donors using the power of the written word.
I offer the consulting and coaching services your non-profit organization needs to run a successful direct mail fundraising program year after year. I help you:
- attract new donors
- persuade new donors to give again
- renew your donors and members year after year
- upgrade donors so they give more, more often, or both
- reactivate lapsed donors
- acquire monthly donors
- raise major gifts
Q. What services do you offer?
A. Everything from acquisition to zip codes. I have the expertise and experience to help you with just about every part of your direct mail fundraising program, including:
Q. What kinds of direct mail do you produce?
A. If your fundraising involves paper and postage, I can help you. I write and design every kind of letter imaginable that non-profit organizations use to raise funds and raise awareness for their causes:
- donor and member acquisition letters
- welcome letters
- renewal letters
- lapsed donor recovery letters
- special appeal letters
- thank-you letters
- special events invitations
- major gift letters
- monthly donor acquisition letters
- protest and petition letters
Q. Do you offer online fundraising?
A. Yes, as long as it involves direct mail. I believe every direct mail program in general and every direct mail appeal in particular must include an online component. So I create, write, design and produce the campaign webpages, microsites, email appeal letters, email newsletters and email alerts that your organization needs to integrate your offline and online direct response appeals.
Q. You say you are a direct mail specialist. Don’t your competitors also claim that?
A. Yes, many do. But most of them also specialize at other things as well. Which immediately makes them generalists. But I specialize at direct mail fundraising. Unlike most of my competitors, I offer just one specialized service. You should be delighted to know that I offer zero expertise in all of the following:
- capital campaigns
- planned giving
- major gift campaigns
- telephone fundraising
- face-to-face fundraising
- legacy marketing
- direct response TV
- special events
- grant proposals
Q. How much experience do you have?
A. I have been a writer and consultant since 1990. More than 215 relief and development organizations, evangelical missions, multinational businesses, marketing communications firms, small businesses, federal government departments and other organizations have retained my services to craft their fundraising and other messages. So I know a thing or two about raising money through the mail.
Q. How successful are you at generating results?
A. In one year alone, my fundraising letters helped an international relief and development agency raise over $5 million for their medical relief work in over 85 countries.
Q. With whom do you work?
A. I have written direct mail fundraising packages for many organizations, including:
- Doctors Without Borders
- Habitat for Humanity
- InTouch Ministries
- Medic Alert
- Queen’s University
You can find a complete list of the non-profit organizations I have worked with here.
Q. Do you work with organizations in the U.S.?
A. Yes. I have clients scattered across the United States and Canada. They all found this website, reviewed my credentials, examined my work, then retained my services without meeting me in person. You can, too.
Q. Did you really fight in the Falklands War?
A. Yes, I really did. That was in my BC days, before I knew Christ. I went ashore on D-Day, and led an eight-man rifle section at the spearhead of 3 Commando Brigade until the Argentines surrendered four weeks later. I also served two tours of duty in South Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Q. We want to pay you with a percentage of what you raise. Is that OK?
A. No. Working for a contingency fee, a commission or a percentage of the money we help you raise is unethical. I abide by the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice of the
Association of Fundraising Professionals. They do not allow contingency based compensation.
Q. So how are you compensated?
A. For my long-term clients, those who retain me as their direct mail consultant, I receive a monthly retainer and charge a production fee after completing each mailing. For clients who retain me on a project basis, I require half my professional fee in advance and the remainder upon completion. For clients who want to retain my services as a consultant only, I charge a per diem rate.
Q. Are you recognized in a niche market?
A. Yes, direct mail fundraising.
Q. What are your fees and contract terms?
A. Because what I offer is my expertise and experience—not just my time—I don’t charge by the hour. Instead, I charge flat, firm fees for my services. Unless you change something, that’s what you pay. For first projects with new clients, I require a signed letter of agreement and 50 percent of my fee in advance. I invoice after submitting my first draft, payable upon receipt.
Q. You say your written quotes are flat and firm. What do you mean?
A. Flat means the quote is all-inclusive. It covers writing, research, consultation, revisions and more. Firm means the quote won’t change later on. No surprises. Unless you change something, what I quoted is what you pay.
Q. Why do you require 50% of your fee in advance? Don’t you trust us?
A. I do trust you. But trust is not the issue. A 50% retainer shows us that you are serious about your project and serious about using my services to your advantage. I like to work with people who value their time—and mine.
Q. Your competitors do work on spec. Why don’t you?
A. I have more than enough work from clients who are happy to retain my services at my full rates. I do not have to do spec work to get business.
Q. How do most clients like to work with you?
A. My clients prefer to work with me by e-mail, fax, phone, courier and conference call. They are busy. So am I. We find that face-to-face meetings are not necessary.
Q. What do you call a boomerang that won’t come back?
A. A stick.
Q. Are there any projects you don’t work on?
A. Yes, there are plenty. Because they are outside my area of expertise as a direct mail fundraising copywriter, consultant and coach, I do not offer help with capital campaigns, planned giving, major gift campaigns, telephone fundraising, face-to-face fundraising, direct response TV, special events, auctions, sweepstakes, public relations or grant proposals.
Q. If we wanted to hire you, how would we go about it?
A. Click the Contact link above and call me.