Direct Mail and Fundraising: Is There a Future?

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 18 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

If there is one thing industry pundits love to do, it is to hyperbolize. Saying radical, paradigm-shifting statements gets them more media attention and thought leadership adoration than a balanced, well-thought-out argument, after all.

Sadly, people take statements like these at face value. The surface level of appearances and the noise of self-proclaimed experts convinces them that things really are that black and white.

Those sounding the death knell of direct mail and the many that heed them are putting themselves into the same camp. The convenience of a federal mail system and the rising popularity of online goods delivery mean that direct mail will never truly go away. But should charities and nonprofits throw in the towel when it comes to direct mail fundraising? Not a chance. Here is why:

Direct Mail Fundraising Is the Leading Source of Contributions

While an online presence and sophisticated digital marketing techniques have helped nonprofits and other organizations spread their message far and wide, these channels still represent a small fraction of actual contribution avenues.

Speaking on the subject, head of Aldrich fundraising Tobin Aldrich asserts that direct mail remains a powerful method for obtaining donations. “Today, charities in the UK and US still make vastly more money from direct mail appeals than they do from any other channel,” he notes.

A large amount of tradition goes into this phenomenon. Long-time contributors — by far the biggest demographic in terms of donation volume — have always donated through direct mail campaigns. In the same vein, older adults have spent their entire lives donating money by sending it through direct mail. Since people over age 60 represent one of the most affluent and consistent donor constituents, the power of direct mail is not something to be taken lightly.

“These people are much more valuable than the fickle young,” Aldrich writes. Since older adults prefer using direct mail, fundraisers risk missing out on their largest demographic by cutting direct mail campaigns from their repertoire.

A Powerful Tool Among Many

In spite of direct mail’s persisting relevance, experts like Aldrich note that overall contributor numbers do happen to be dwindling. The convenience and perception of security leads many to donate through direct mail out of habit, but the place for digital campaigning is also growing year after year.

What nonprofit fundraisers should do in this climate is take advantage of each channel available. Online venues provide a very visible and accessible voice for new potential donors to become aware of charity messages. These exposures need to be supplemented with other channels like email marketing or direct mail marketing to achieve maximum awareness and impact. “A donor might see a mail piece and respond online,” Aldrich suggests, “or see a TV ad and respond by mail.”

The larger point is that direct mail remains a viable solution to reach new people or regain touchpoints. Information delivered at someone’s door has a more immediate impact than something on their social media wall. Nonprofits should keep this advantage in mind and prevent all the naysayers from taking away what amounts to a huge source of their income year after year.

You can learn more about direct mail campaigns and their power to impact potential donors by reading our related post on remittance envelopes.

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