Book And Video Reviews

Open Immediately: Straight Talk on Direct Mail Fundraising : What Works, What Doesn't, and Why

by Stephen Hitchcock
This is a good book. It's easy to read, speaks directly to the reader, and makes excellent points about how -- and how not to -- do direct mail fund raising. I'm not an expert on direct mail, but I've done it before. Hitchcock's advice is right on target and easy to explain to non-development staff, board members, and volunteers.

Hitchcock is President of Mal Warwick and Associates. This firm does a lot of fund raising consulting, and Mal Warwick is well-known for his many books on nonprofit fundraising. In fact, Ten Steps to Fundraising Success was co-written by Messrs. Warwick and Hitchcock.

The book is organized around six key themes (see list below), and the 83 “chapters” are very short (often 3-4 pages each) ideas relating to the theme. These ideas often include concrete advice, checklists, and lists of numbered tips that make the advice easy to follow.

Much of the advice and knowledge is deceptively simple -- we feel we should know this, but often we don't act as through we do. For example, the book instructs on how to keep an appeal simple, direct, informal, and free of verbal or physical clutter. Did you know that including your nonprofit's brochure in a fundraising mailing actually decreases donor response? Did you know that cramming a lot of words, no matter how well-written, on a single page to save a little printing and postage money actually costs your organization far more in lost donations?

Reading this book has helped me in my consultation work with clients, in my work as a volunteer trustee of a national foundation, and as a consumer and citizen evaluating the direct mail appeals I receive all the time. Stephen Hitchcock is generous in writing a book that allows the rest of us to feel we're as savvy about direct mail fundraising as he has become through years of experience.