Pulse: Raising Money by Mail
FS: How have paper and postage hikes, along with the emerging relevance of Internet/ e-mail appeals, affected mail campaigns?
SS: The rising costs related to printing and postage make it even more important to plan ahead. Then the group can compare service providers and get the best printing for the best prices. The Internet and e-mail appeals are a great way to reinforce the messages sent in direct-mail appeals. However, electronic communications don't completely replace regular mail.
SR: I don't know that now is any better or any worse of a time [to mail]. The thing that I keep saying to people is don't give up on it; don't be afraid to go ahead and spend some money to do direct mail, because we know it works. Nonprofits are scaling back on acquisitions, or they might reduce their number of donor renewals from four a year to three or from three to two. But I'm absolutely telling nonprofits don't completely give up on it because direct mail still works very, very well.
Yes, there's a lot of excitement around social media and a lot of nonprofits that are trying to figure out how to leverage Facebook and Twitter to raise a lot of money and take the place of things like direct mail, but it's just not happening. There are all kinds of reasons why that is, but I think a lot of nonprofits are still looking at direct mail as a tried-and-true technique for raising money.
FS: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see in mail solicitations?
SS: One of the biggest mistakes with smaller organizations is not customizing the letter enough. Some are still using "Dear Friend" instead of using the donor's name, often because they don't realize how easy computers make this personalization process.
SR: Mistakes are not a bad thing. I know some people that are so careful to not make mistakes that they hardly move forward. If you aren't making mistakes at least occasionally, you aren't pushing the envelope hard enough — and you are not raising as much money as you could be.