Large-scale direct mail campaigns are often based around postal discounts to lower rising postal costs, but there are so many other innovations that may be worth your consideration to improve your organization’s direct mail campaigns’ revenue. The mailbox has become a less busy place than donors’ email inboxes or social media feeds, but it’s still vital to stand out and get donors’ attention with direct mail.
“We have to try to play in this world,” Craig DePole, president of Newport ONE, said. “This is our game too. We don’t get the pass for just being a nonprofit organization. In the old days, there was this sense that direct mail could look homespun, like you put it together in your office, and donors appreciated that. I think there’s still an element to that, but that element is now through technology, through handwriting on outer envelopes and things that look like they’re touched.”
DePole; Dennis Kelly, CEO of Postalytics; and Sheridan Marfil, director individual fundraising at CARE, participated in the panel session, “Direct Mail Innovations,” moderated by Steven Mills, director of mailing services product management at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), at the 18th annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, yesterday.
Here’s a look at some of the direct mail innovations they discussed.
Direct Mail Automation Techniques
Digital printing permits nonprofits precise personalization on direct mail pieces. Variable data and logic customizes everything from copy to images for each donor. That process formerly required a prepress operator manually overseeing different creatives, but now it’s automated via software on the cloud.
“This new ability to virtually create a nationwide footprint of printers that can take individual pieces of mail and make them 100% unique without having to have a person sit there and do it at each location is really a new thing,” Kelly said. “So when we send the mailers out to the print partners, they’re already fully formed. They’re 100% print-ready pdfs.”
In addition, this technology has impacted the scale required for a campaign. Just like your organization can trigger an email, you can now trigger a single direct mail piece instead of batching a large order.
“You can send one piece of mail triggered through your CRM when different things happen — somebody fills out a form, someone’s anniversary has arrived,” Kelly said.
Intelligent Mail Barcode Tracking
The USPS uses Intelligent Mail Barcodes for a variety of internal purposes, but Postalytics, a direct mail automation software, uses it to provide nonprofits real-time updates via a campaign dashboard, which not only lets organizations know when direct mail reaches donors’ mailboxes, but allows them to time other components of their multichannel campaigns or segment donors based on their response to another channel, Kelly said.
Another benefit of tracking mail with intelligent mail barcodes is to have a more streamlined way of tracking undeliverable mail and removing those addresses from your mailing list.
“So rather than waiting for the pile of mail to come back with the yellow [return to sender] stickies and then have someone manually running through all of that and dealing with it, that same intelligent mail barcode system from the Postal Service will let you know, ‘Hey, this piece of mail is not deliverable,’” he said.
Streamlined Experience to Give Online
For online giving, nonprofits aim to allow donors to give with the fewest amount of clicks. The same thinking should be applied to direct mail. Replacing a multi-step direct mail donation with a streamlined online donation has its benefits.
“We really look for our direct mail donors to give their gifts online,” Marfil said. “Not only do we capture more data but it’s also quicker revenue in the door.”
Techniques that can help your nonprofit facilitate a move from direct mail to online giving include informed delivery, adding Venmo to your reply forms, and utilizing QR codes and/or personalized URLs on your direct mail pieces.
“Over the last four years we’ve seen a 75% jump in growth in terms of the number of mailers going out using either a PURL or QR code — or both,” Kelly said.
Additionally, nonprofits are creating a seamless campaign by personalizing the donation landing page for these campaigns so the creative has the same look across channels.
“By cutting the disconnect between the channels when you move from offline to online, you have that consistency — the same messaging, the same imagery, the prefilled form,” Kelly said.
CARE has tested a plain postcard that said, “How cold is it in Ukraine?” with a QR code that linked to a matching campaign form that also had the answer to the question.
“It was a whole experience,” Marfil said. “We found a lot of success with that. We’re trying to find different ways like that to get our direct mail donors to give online and push them that way.”
Removing the friction direct mail causes for donors who don’t want to write a check or complete a multi-step process to mail back a donation is the key, DePole said.
“Direct mail is still a dominant way to get people’s attention and continues to be a key motivator for most nonprofit organizations, but it is not going to be the way people want to transact,” he said. “And we have to uncouple the way people are motivated and the way people transact.”