Skip to content
PIP Home
Blog Post | Jan 25, 2022

3 Surprising Direct Mail Best Practices Nonprofits Should Embrace

When it comes to fundraising, direct mail dramatically outperforms email. But what works may seem counterintuitive to integrated marketers. This article examines the surprising tactics and strategies that can help make your campaign a success.

Topics: Direct Mail

Direct Marketing
If you’re an integrated marketer working for a charity or nonprofit, you’re probably always looking for ways to get more done with less money. And, you may have thought, “Well, for fundraising, isn’t email the way to go?” After all, email is a timely, immediate and cost-effective option.

But not if you’re looking to build lasting connections with your donors and supporters.

Direct mail outperforms email for several important reasons. For starters, there’s simply less competition: for every one piece of physical mail a person receives, there are 36 emails clogging up their inbox. Particularly for fundraising, printed materials convey credibility and trustworthiness. Direct mail will always feel like a much more personal medium – and research shows that people tend to read digital media faster and absorb less information than a printed piece. Surprised?

Good direct mail is part art and part science, and many of the best practices can seem unexpected. Read on to learn some strategies that have proven effective for nonprofits.

Use an old-fashioned envelope and letter

File this one under, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!” The enduring success of the direct mail letter for fundraising seems almost counterintuitive since a piece of long-form communication demands more of the reader’s time and attention.

A long-form printed piece lets you go into detail and use emotional or evocative language, and the content can provide a credible, in-depth look into your organization’s mission and impact.  One more surprising fact is that our brains react differently to print: not only do people spend more time with a printed piece, they’re also more likely to feel a lasting emotional response.

However, this format does come with a few trade-offs:
  • To maximize your ROI, you’ll need a high-quality, well-groomed list. We understand the temptation to purchase a mailing list, but most experts (including ourselves) recommend cultivating your own list instead. Contact us to learn more about tactics that can help you add qualified leads to your database and best practices for list hygiene.
  • Your mailer should look professional and attractive, but not extravagant. After all, donors may be reluctant to give if they think their dollars are being used on marketing instead of supporting your organization’s mission.

Put the focus on “you”

When we say “you,” we mean your audience. Instead of concentrating on your organization’s needs, your message should focus on how your readers can help. Be clear about the ask – if possible, tie it to a specific outcome or initiative.

Consider the impact of the following two asks:
  1. “XYZ’s goal is to raise $25,000 in the next month, which we’ll use to support animals right here in our community.”
  2. “When you give to XYZ, your gift will provide meals, shelter, and medical services for animals in our community.”

The second example makes the reader the hero in the story. How can they resist?

Your marketing plan shouldn’t be ‘either/or’
So this isn’t exactly a shocker, but what may surprise you is just how effective combining direct mail with digital tactics can be: 50% of donors are more likely to respond when they see messages across a variety of different channels.

Your letter should feel self-contained and tell a complete story, but it should also feature your organization’s website and social media. Include a secure URL for donations since 35% of donors say they prefer to respond to a piece of direct mail by going online to give. When appropriate, follow up with an email that references other tactics. Keep nurturing that relationship!

Let us help you put it all together

We have decades of experience creating successful direct mail campaigns for nonprofits all over the country, and we can help you too! Contact us to learn more and see examples of our work.