direct mail

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A couple of days ago a member of my team was talking about several fundraising ideas one of our partners was putting together, and one of their efforts included placing letters in the mail.

Candidly, I was a bit surprised because so many nonprofits have stopped mailing letters and instead have almost exclusively transitioned all of their marketing and fundraising appeals to digital.

It might sound counter-intuitive in the age of the $0.49 postage rate for a first class letter in comparison to reaching thousands of donors paying as little as $5 for a post. But, printed letters and postcards mailings should remain part of your marketing mix, at least to some of your donors.

  1. House file: Presumably you have a house file of donors and prospects with whom you have a regular relationship. Today’s world is dense with content, especially in the digital world. Our social enterprise mails regularly to our house file, and we have a response rate that can sometimes exceed 10 percent.
  2. Multi-channel: When you create mailings, especially for your best supporters, you’re ensuring that you’re reaching out to them in multiple platforms and ways. The approach only reinforces your message and outreach to them. You don’t know the moment is inspired to support you in some way. Letters, catalogs, and postcard mailings serve to provide them with a subliminal message that you’re available to them, whenever they’re ready.
  3. Testing Opportunity: Mailing provides you an opportunity to test another method to reach your supporters. If you have an extensive database, segment out a random sample of, say, 10 percent of your donors, and then see if you’re response rate exceeded the cost of the mailing. If it did, you have another way to reach your donors that will make you money.
  4. Important Messaging: When you send a letter or postcard in the mail, especially if it has a first class or non-bulk rate postage, chances are the receiver is going to take a quick look at what you have to say. Mailing is an excellent opportunity to provide donors or major donors especially a critical message they might otherwise miss in the sea of emails everyone receives daily and ignores.
  5. Generational Giving: I understand that everyone always like the youngest and coolest generations, but the reality is that Generation X and Boomers give more to charity than Millennials or Gen Z. These two generations still have a higher propensity to open mail or look at a package, especially if it’s a dimension or size that is not standard. 
  6. Response Rate: The reality is that direct mail still has a higher response rate than email or social media solicitations. For 2017, Compu-mail noted in this article, “Direct mail household response rate is 5.1% (compared to .6% email, .6% paid search, .2 online display, .4% social media). This is the highest response rate the DMA has ever reported, since coming out with the Response Rate Report in 2003.1 
  7. Credibility: In the digital age, everyone is bombarded with ads and messages, and now you can “fake news.” People have learned to quickly screen out and distrust many of the content they see in the digital world. Direct mail provides an opportunity to build trust because if you’re investing in this form of outreach, you’re separating yourself from the digital herd.
  8. Saturation: On any given day, in the digital world, your donors and supporters are saturated with pleas for help and messages. There’s just so much content out there and a lot of it is low-quality and low-value content, which turns people off. Receiving something in the mail is an opportunity to break through the digital noise, and more brands are beginning to go back to mail so they can create deeper relationships.
  9. Creativity: Marketers who are going back and taking another look at direct mail are doing it in innovative ways, and this should be something your organization should consider. Instead of a standard sized envelope or postcard, creative marketers are experimenting with different dimensions or tube mailings. For instance, or years City Harvest has been driving home it’s messaging to fight hunger by mailing paper bags to its donors and prospects.
  10. QR Codes and PURLs: Marketers have also been testing the use of QR codes or personal URLs (PURLs) in their direct mail so that when someone receives a letter or card in the mail, they can be redirected immediately with their smartphones to an organization’s campaign page. Adding these elements to direct mail are an excellent way to integrate direct mail in the digital age.

According to the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), sure, the amount of direct mail has declined, but marketers are thinking more carefully and creatively about how to send printed material. If you’ve moved all of your marketing to the digital world, you may want to consider treating at least some of your donors to mail.

 

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Be Bold, Dominate and Succeed in Marketing For Today’s Digital World On A Limited Budget” (Free Digital Download) 

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.

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