3 Fundraising Direct-Mail Trends
According to the recent Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2011 by Giving USA, individual donations increased by 4 percent in 2011 (as compared to 2010) to $217.79 billion in contributions. Specifically, giving to education went up by 4 percent, human services by 2.5 percent, health organizations by 2.7 percent and pubic-society benefit organizations by 4 percent. The only category that decreased in donations was religious charities.
In other words, after some leaner years in 2009 and 2010 following the 2008 recession, things — such as donor dollars! — are looking up for fundraisers. However, many nonprofits continue to face budget constraints along with hesitant donor prospects, and the transition from a direct-mail-centric organization to a truly multichannel engine has been rough for many … or has yet to truly occur.
We at DirectMarketingIQ, along with our partner Fundraising Success, are here to help. In 2011, we released "The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising," the ultimate guide to cross-media fundraising. Each chapter was penned by proven fundraising marketers, and it covered channel selection, creative, direct mail, e-mail, mobile, social media, renewals, testing and even eight comprehensive multichannel case studies.
The "Cross-Channel Fundraising Tips and Trends" report is step two in this high-level study of fundraising marketing, as we pulled endless amounts of data from our direct-mail and e-mail archives (the most complete direct marketing archive in the world) and are presenting the current fundraising trends, including comparisons of 2011 to 2010, as well as giving a glimpse of how 2012 is shaping up. (Fundraising best practices and case studies are also included.)
Here are some of the direct-mail trends (we spotlighted e-mail as well) covered in the report:
Examining monthly fundraising mail volume over the past two years reveals a slightly different picture than looking at each year as a whole. While the first quarter of each year was roughly the same volume of mail, the rest of the quarters were markedly different.
The second and third quarters were dominated by 2010, with 14 percent more mail. But it changed in the fourth quarter, as 2011 showed a 7 percent increase from 2010. The biggest shift of all was the month of December, which grew by 29 percent from 2011 compared to 2010.
What does the fundraiser value more: getting new donors or retaining current ones? Both, of course, but in which direction is the money getting allocated? And how does the fundraiser approach the donor prospect? Examining offer types — broken into acquisition, retention and expire mailings — reveals the current answers.
Retention mailings have grown by 16 percent from 2010 to 2011, showing that fundraisers are putting more emphasis on keeping the donors they have on their rolls. To further prove this theory, expire mailings also went up, by 7 percent. Accordingly, acquisition efforts were affected by this switch-up in emphasis and their numbers shrunk by 3 percent.
Watching how popular direct-marketing tactics are employed in certain sectors is always fascinating, and it's no different for fundraising. Using variable data printing (VDP) or personalization has grown in every sector, and that includes fundraising, where it went up by 6 percent. Now, 58 percent of fundraising efforts are personalized in some way, from the name, to the images shown, to even the kind of premium offered.
Speaking of premiums, these gifts — promised after a donation — have long been a popular tactic for fundraisers looking to grease the giving wheels. In 2011, premiums remained popular, as they still hovered around 17 percent — similar to 2010.
What about freemiums? You know, the free labels, a calendar, note pad, rosary, etc., that are stuffed into a package and that can guilt/encourage prospects into giving? They slipped quite a bit from 2010 to 2011, by 14 percent. The most logical explanation is postal costs, just like with the slowdown of larger packages.
Ethan Boldt is the chief content officer of DirectMarketingIQ and can be reached at email@example.com. To learn more about "Cross-Channel Fundraising Tips and Trends," visit the DirectMarketingIQ bookstore.