In our increasingly digital world, your donors are constantly bombarded with emails, notifications, and online ads. If your nonprofit needs a way to break through the noise and connect with supporters offline, look no further than tried and true direct mail campaigns.
Direct mail is the perfect solution for combatting supporters’ digital fatigue, and it remains an effective tool for fundraising, acquiring new supporters, and stewarding existing donors. To give you a better idea of why it’s so effective, we’ll discuss five impactful benefits that direct mail offers:
- Direct Mail is Highly Personal
- Supporters Get a Tangible Reminder of Your Organization
- Direct Mail Provides the Space to Tell Stories
- There’s Less Competition for Recipients’ Attention
- It Fits Seamlessly Into a Multichannel Strategy
Direct mail campaigns can be successful for nonprofits of all sizes and experience levels. As we explore these benefits, we’ll also give you tips on how to make your campaign resonate with your audience.
Emails tend to feel generic and bland because recipients get so many, but your supporters likely don’t receive as much physical mail. This makes direct mail feel special, and the fact that it arrives at recipients’ homes and they can hold it in their hands makes it feel even more personal. Just compare the effect of a physical, handwritten letter thanking someone for their support with a typical thank-you email that they may not even open.
Direct mail’s personalization helps you connect with existing supporters and acquire new donors by showing recipients that you care about them as individuals, not just sources of funding. Use additional personalization techniques to see better results, such as:
- Using the donor’s name. Steer away from “Dear Donor” and address every recipient by their first name. Even though it’s simple, opening with the supporter’s name is important for starting the letter off on the right foot.
- Referencing their past donations and involvement. If you’re writing to an existing or lapsed donor, mention how they’ve supported your organization in the past. Get specific by referencing data from your nonprofit’s CRM, such as the most recent campaign they donated to or the last event they attended.
- Updating them on the personal impact of their donations. Go one step further by not only mentioning their last donation but also letting them know the impact it made. Give them a tangible result, such as “Your $200 donation allowed us to add 50 new diversity-focused children’s books to the public library.”
Remember that the information in your donor database must be regularly updated to ensure that the personal details you reference are correct and up-to-date. Follow best practices from resources like NPOInfo’s nonprofit data hygiene guide to maintain clean and accurate data that you can use in direct mail campaigns.
A major part of direct mail’s value for nonprofits is its tangibility. Your donors are likely to delete emails that are crowding their inboxes right away, but most people keep physical mail for a longer time.
Whether your fundraising appeal ends up sitting on their desk for a few days or they leave it by the door until they’re ready to donate, it serves as a physical reminder of your nonprofit in your recipient’s home. Direct mail can even hold sentimental value for supporters in a way that emails can’t replicate. Think of donors keeping an especially heartfelt thank-you note or putting a card with photos representing their impact on their fridge.
Tangibility is a benefit of all types of direct mail, but especially if you supplement your letters with occasional small gifts. Sending small items like branded water bottles or stickers is a nice way to recognize donors and keep your nonprofit top-of-mind.
Across every medium, using storytelling strategies humanizes your communications and helps you connect with readers on an emotional level. However, direct mail is uniquely suited to storytelling because it provides more space than social media or texts, it’s more likely to be fully read by recipients, and it’s easy to add compelling visuals.
Meyer Partners’ guide to direct mail fundraising recommends focusing on these three strategies to tell powerful stories with your direct mail:
- Resonance: Stories have to resonate emotionally with your supporters to have an impact. The best way to achieve this is to use real, genuine stories of people involved with your nonprofit, such as beneficiaries, volunteers, or donors.
- Relevance: Place the donor in the driver’s seat of the story to make sure they see where they fit in. Use donor-centric language like “you” and “we,” and emphasize how the reader can make a personal impact with their donation.
- Respect: When using real stories, it’s important to maintain a high level of respect for everyone involved, meaning beneficiaries and donors. Only tell people’s stories with their express permission, don’t embellish the truth, and stay away from negative emotions like fear or guilt.
To see these strategies in action, take a look at this short example of a fundraising appeal for a capital campaign:
Devin says that the Augusta Boys and Girls Club raised her. She came to the Matthews Center every day after school, where she made friends, had fun safely, and felt supported throughout her childhood. But in the years since Devin graduated, the building has developed a number of problems and now needs a major renovation. You can support countless Augusta children by making a donation to help us rebuild the Matthews Center. Donate today and be the reason more kids have the same experience Devin had.
The average office worker receives over 120 emails a day. That’s a lot of messages to wade through to find your organization’s fundraising appeal or campaign update. But while your supporters’ email inboxes are oversaturated with promotional messages, far fewer letters end up in their mailboxes.
This makes your nonprofit’s direct mail much more likely to stand out and mean more to recipients. Your message can easily get lost in a string of 100 email notifications that feel like a chore to read. But if a supporter only finds five items in their mailbox, two of which are bills, they’ll be excited to see what your organization has to say.
Finally, direct mail helps you create a well-rounded nonprofit marketing strategy when you incorporate other channels. Use a variety of communication channels that are relevant to your audience to give your messages a broader reach. This might include your website, phone calls, email, social media, texts, and more.
A key part of developing a successful multichannel marketing strategy is connecting your channels to present a cohesive brand. To connect direct mail with your other marketing channels, you can:
- Add QR codes. Many of your direct mail recipients may want to donate online. Instead of making them type out a link or Google your nonprofit’s website, add a QR code that leads to your donation page or event registration form when readers scan it with their phones.
- Include your social media handles at the bottom of the letter. Remind supporters to follow your organization on social media by placing each of your handles below your message. Include your nonprofit’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other profiles you have.
By giving your donors multiple ways to connect with your nonprofit, both online and offline, you’ll increase the chances that your organization stays on their minds.
As you develop your own direct mail campaigns and explore these benefits for yourself, make sure to measure your direct mail strategy’s success and change course as needed. Monitor response rates, donations from direct mail, and other key metrics to ensure that your messages are making an impact.