A guest post by Joshua Meyer of Bloomerang
As far as nonprofit marketing is concerned, it doesn’t get more classic than direct mail. Large-scale direct mail has been a staple of nonprofit communications for decades. However, with the dominance of online fundraising, you may be wondering if direct mail is still worth the investment.
16% of donors still prefer to give using direct mail, second to online donations, but still a decent portion of nonprofit supporters. This guide will explore the benefits of keeping direct mail in your fundraising strategy, along with best practices for achieving a high return on investment (ROI) via direct mail.
Benefits of Direct Mail for Nonprofits
Direct mail empowers nonprofits with the following advantages:
- Offers a high return on investment (ROI). Direct mail has an average response rate of 5.3%, compared to 0.1% for email, 0.6% for paid search ads, and 0.2% for online display advertising.
- Helps your nonprofit stand out. Receiving a personally addressed letter makes supporters feel more individually recognized and helps cut through the digital noise.
- Appeals to multiple senses. People are more likely to remember information that they process using more than one sense. With direct mail, supporters can process your nonprofit’s message using their senses of vision and touch.
- Helps connect with older audiences. Research shows older adults prefer receiving more traditional forms of communication, such as printed materials and verbal communications.
Many supporters still feel a sense of excitement at receiving a letter personally addressed with their name. Direct mail can provide a compelling look into your nonprofit’s activities and reach donors outside the busy digital environment.
Tips for Leveraging Direct Mail Effectively
Just like any marketing strategy, direct mail requires you to have a concrete plan that enables you to take a thoughtful and strategic approach. You’ll have the most success with your direct mail strategy when you incorporate the following best practices:
Alt: List of tips for leveraging direct mail effectively for nonprofits (explained in the text below)
Personalize your outreach
80% of consumers are more likely to shop from a brand that offers personalized experiences. The same is true for your nonprofit’s supporters—they appreciate personalized marketing messages that speak to their unique interests.
Personalize your direct mail by following these tips:
- Address letters with supporters’ names.
- Reference past interactions.
- Have your executive director sign letters.
For example, let’s say you’re sending out invitations for your nonprofit’s annual silent auction event. Here’s an example of a letter you might send:
Thank you for your past donation of $100 on September 15, 2023, and your participation in our Spring 5K and Fun Run. Because of your generosity and past event attendance, we wanted to personally invite you to our annual New Year’s Eve Gala and Silent Auction on December 31, 2023. Please RSVP using the link or QR code at the bottom of this page. Hope to see you there!
[Your executive director’s signature]
According to Bloomerang’s donor management software guide, a powerful donor management system is your most effective tool for personalization. Use your donor management system to store donors’ personal information and implement it into your direct mail outreach.
Stories tend to be easier to remember and more engaging than facts alone. They help audience members build an emotional connection to your cause. Implement these tips when telling stories via direct mail:
- Write in a skimmable format. Use short paragraphs and break up text blocks using bullet points.
- Incorporate visuals. Images that show people’s faces tend to work best for sparking an emotional connection.
- Spotlight key messages using bolding or underlining. Make sure donors can understand your main message with just a glance.
Highlight one main protagonist in your story, such as a community member who received support from your nonprofit or the reason a board member joined your board. This practice keeps your storytelling more focused and allows readers to feel emotionally connected to your main character.
Leverage multichannel fundraising
Fundraising research shows that marketing campaigns that used direct mail and one or more digital media elements experienced a 118% boost in response rate compared to those that used direct mail alone.
Combine direct mail outreach with digital fundraising initiatives to create cohesion across your marketing channels and offer multiple donor touchpoints. For example, include a QR code or vanity URL on your letters or postcards that sends supporters to your online donation form.
This helps keep your message top-of-mind for donors while reaching them in unique ways that don’t overwhelm them with excessive communications.
Keep your content donor-focused
Your letters should stay focused on your supporters themselves and their accomplishments, not your nonprofit. Use mostly second-person words, such as “you” and “your” instead of first-person words like “our” or “I.” This distinction shows donors that your nonprofit couldn’t complete its mission without supporters’ tireless efforts and involvement.
For example, instead of saying:
Our nonprofit just reached its 2023 fundraising goal!
Your generous support helped raise $30,000 this year for animal welfare!
Run your copy through a communications audit tool to ensure readability and donor-centricity.
Choose metrics to assess progress
Metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you assess your progress and your direct mail strategy’s effectiveness. Track metrics such as:
- New donor acquisition rate
- Conversion rates from direct mail (whether for donations, event signups, volunteer registrations, etc.)
- Direct mail donor retention rate
- Average direct mail donation amount
- Direct mail ROI
Make sure to also track donor demographics and characteristics for donors who engage the most with your direct mail messages. You can create a new marketing persona using patterns and trends that emerge in your direct mail audience. This segmentation can help refine your direct mail marketing over time as you learn more about your target audience and design your materials to appeal to their interests.
As you craft your nonprofit’s online fundraising strategy, don’t forget about the role that direct mail can still play in your fundraising success. Direct mail can deliver the additional personal touch many supporters need to take the leap and become donors, volunteers, or advocates.
Joshua Meyer brings more than 20 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the VP of Demand Generation for Bloomerang. As a member of the Bloomerang marketing team, Josh manages the organization’s growth marketing efforts. Through his previous roles at the Human Rights Campaign and OneCause, he has a passion for helping to create positive change and helping nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals