‘Are We Mailing Too Much?’ Is the Wrong Question
I promise this blog will be about much more than direct mail, but I just can’t resist the urge to talk about the question I hear more than any other — from marketers, fundraisers and the C-suite: “Are we mailing too much?”
I’m not saying that your program of 38 touches is or is not a good thing. What I’m saying is the question about frequency is the least important question you should be asking right now. And if you saw the DMA Nonprofit Federation presentation by Chuck Longfield, chief scientist at Blackbaud, at the Washington Nonprofit Conference two weeks ago, I would say everyone should be asking some very serious questions.
Here are the questions you should be asking …
- What do my donors expect from their relationship with my brand?
- How satisfied and committed are my donors to the brand? And, what’s driving satisfaction and commitment to my brand?
- What’s the “story” I’m telling my donors across all of my touches? And, what messages truly resonate with what my donors need to hear?
And yes, you are right — donor input is required to answer most of these. We have long built our strategies, segmentation and messaging based on what has worked in the past. Looking in the rearview mirror has worked very well and is not necessarily the wrong approach — but it is a partial approach. Not having donor input to inform your strategies is a crippling element to future success.
Let’s break this down …
For many years, there has been a feeling that being a direct-mail donor is like being an anonymous donor — at arm’s length and not very personal. There have been enough studies in the industry (Russ Reid, DonorVoice, Merkle, etc.) that have shown us this is not true. Not only do direct-mail donors want a relationship with the organizations they support, but they also have expectations. If you think they simply want you to use their gifts well, you are very under-informed. Today’s donors want to provide you their preferences, they want to receive information that is specific to their interests, they want to be asked for feedback, and yes, some of them even want to broaden their relationship and do other things with the organization. There’s no way to actually know what to do to meet their expectations if you don’t ever talk to them about their expectations.