Many nonprofits have been wondering if direct mail fundraising is still an effective marketing option. With so much emphasis on digital fundraising channels, it’s easy to see why some nonprofits have begun to move away from direct mail. However, direct mail still has several benefits, especially for small nonprofits or those working on-the-ground with their local communities.
Ideally, you would want to make the most of traditional and online fundraising options, but with some nonprofits on tighter budgets, you might have to pick and choose. So to help you decide if direct mail fundraising is the right option for your nonprofit, we decided to make an old-fashioned pros and cons list. Here’s what we came up with:
*Direct mail is easy to write.
*It makes it easier to connect with individuals.
*You can keep track of direct mail.
*You can share important details.
And the cons:
*Direct mail can come off as impersonal.
*You might miss out on other giving opportunities.
*Direct mail can get expensive.
Any type of fundraising for your nonprofit is going to pose its challenges. But, in the long-run, it’s more cost effective and efficient to weigh the pros and cons of the fundraising strategies you’re considering. Not only will determining your strategy in advance save you time, but it will also help you maximize the benefits of your fundraising efforts.
Pro: Direct mail is easy to write.
While creating a website or designing content for your social media channels might require a lot more effort, writing a direct mail campaign is much more straightforward.
You still need to put plenty of thought into your message but because direct mail has been around for so long, there are plenty of templates out there for event invitations, donation requests, and thank you letters to help you get going. If you don’t know how to start your direct mail campaign, consider some of these different options:
Event flyer: Mailing an event flyer will get the information directly into your supporter’s hands. With a compelling theme or interesting title, you can give your donors a tangible way to remember your upcoming event.
Newsletter: A monthly newsletter is a great way to keep your supporters informed about what’s going on in your nonprofit. You could even use your newsletter as an extra place to thank donors.
Donation request: Writing a donation request is probably the most challenging because you’re directly asking for money. However, resources like these templates from GivingMail, can help if you can’t find the words.
Postcard: An eye-catching postcard can quickly convey an important bit of information, like the date of an upcoming event, a new website, or a final total from a capital campaign.
Thank you note: Don’t underestimate the value of a handwritten thank you note. These letters can show your donors how much you appreciate their contributions and value their support.
Another great thing about direct mail is that you can work in batches. Draft your first round perfectly and use it for every donor in your segmented mailing list. This approach can help you save time.
Con: It can come off as impersonal.
Although direct mail can be easy to write, you also run the risk of potentially coming off as impersonal. Everyone has received a letter writing, “Dear Donor” or “Dear Valued Customer.” These greetings feel generic and detached, and the last thing you want to do is make your supporter feel like a number in a database.
One way to counteract this con is by personalizing your direct mail materials. Remember: donors notice the details. Using your supporter’s name, specifying their gift amount, or mentioning a previous interaction if you’ve met them shows that you’re paying attention to their individual involvement in your cause.
Cultivating these relationships through direct mail can also support your donor retention efforts. Your contributors want to feel valued as individuals, and attempting to connect with them on a personal level can encourage them to continue supporting you.
Pro: Direct mail makes it easier to connect with individuals.
Unlike your website or social media, direct mail guarantees that your materials end up right in front of you donor. For this reason, you’re able to tailor your materials to specifically target or appeal to different groups of donors.
This strategy, also known as donor segmentation, involves grouping your donors based on different traits. In this way, you can tweak your direct mail materials to better appeal to those specific groups. For direct mail campaigns, segmentation is very effective. You could try segmenting your audience based on age; average donation amount; volunteer history; preferred communication method.
Segmenting your audience is another great way to avoid seeming impersonal because you’ll be connecting with your donors as individuals with unique traits, interests, and levels of involvement.
Con: You might miss out on other giving opportunities.
If you’re part of a smaller nonprofit, you might not have access to an extremely wide range of fundraising tools or marketing outlets. For this reason, investing in direct mail might not always be the best option for you, especially if you think that other channels might be more effective for your mission or the type of work that you do.
In some cases and depending on your unique donors base, you may find greater success with strategies like:
Text-to-give: A text-to-give campaign has similar benefits to direct mail, but with lower upfront costs. While it lacks the tangibility of direct mail, you can still reach individuals.
Workplace giving: Workplace giving is a great way for you to increase your donations while also encouraging your supporters to raise awareness about your cause. According to these statistics from 360MatchPro, corporations gave $21 billion to nonprofits in 2019, so setting up a workplace giving or matching program could open up an exciting new revenue stream.
Events: As in-person events become more feasible across the country, you could try hosting a fundraising event, like an auction, festival, or fun run.
While you can’t implement every type of fundraising campaign, you can do some trial and error to see which strategies work best for your nonprofit. If direct mail is already appealing to you, try it out and test its success rate. Once you have a better idea of direct mail’s effectiveness, you could add in another type of campaign.
Pro: You can keep track of direct mail.
Keeping track of your direct mail campaign is crucial for its success. Here’s the good news: monitoring your conversion and response rates from direct mail is relatively easy. These are just a couple of ways that you can track your direct mail:
Set up specific landing pages: On your direct mail materials, guide your recipients to visit one specific landing page on your website. Using your website’s analytics, you can then track the amount of visitors to that page to determine the effectiveness of your direct mail campaign.
Use a QR code: If you’re trying to get supporters to donate or attend an event, you could add a QR code to your direct mail. That way, you can track how many people used that QR code to send in their donation or RSVP. However, be mindful of your audience. QR codes tend to be more effective with younger audiences.
Just ask: Don’t be afraid to ask your supporters how they heard about you. This type of metric can be helpful for all of your fundraising channels, not just for direct mail.
Keeping track of the effectiveness of your fundraising channels can give you a lot of valuable information about which strategies work and which ones don’t. In this way, direct mail can provide valuable long-term insights about how your audience likes to engage with your messages.
Con: Direct mail can get expensive.
Depending on your vision for a direct mail campaign, your costs can quickly add up. You need text, images, the physical materials, and the ability to send it out. If you’re a startup nonprofit, these costs may be intimidating. Although direct mail can get expensive, there are several ways to keep costs down:
Print more: It might seem contradictory, but bulk orders tend to be cheaper than small ones. However, this approach is only effective for some types of campaigns. Donation letters might be more effective when you send them to a small, more targeted group, while it might serve you well to print and send several event flyers.
Use clean data: While printing more direct mail materials can save you money, sending them out to just anyone won’t. Make sure that the individuals receiving your mail are actually interested in your cause. Remember to consistently revise your data so it’s fully up-to-date.
Make engagement easy: If your materials are missing an easy way to donate, sign-up for an event, or get involved with your organization, you will lose potential contributors, even if you design a compelling campaign. By making it easy for donors to engage with clear calls-to-action, you can ensure that your return on investment is high.
Keeping your direct mail campaign’s costs down is certainly possible, but it might require a bit of extra preparation. If you’re planning on investing, take the time to plan ahead to ensure that your campaign is worth the price.
Pro: You can share important details.
Because direct mail materials tend to be shorter, you can share important details in a quick and eye-catching way. If you have an upcoming event, for example, direct mail is a great option to convey the date, time, and location. As you’re writing your direct mail communications, these are some important things to keep in mind:
*Keep it simple
*Use interesting graphics
*Tell a story
*Explain why donors should care
Maintaining a straightforward and friendly tone is the best strategy for your direct mail campaign, especially if you’re using it to convey important information quickly. Remember, your reader is already sifting through their mail, so you want to stand out.
Depending on your outreach goal, the size of your organization, and your timeframe, a direct mail campaign may be just right for you. Although direct mail has its drawbacks, just like any other marketing or fundraising outlet, you can easily mitigate them by planning ahead.
The most important thing? Take a personal approach to designing your materials. Doing so will show your donors that you appreciate their contributions and encourage them to get more involved.