Aside from looming postal issues, the future of direct mail looks increasingly bright because of an inevitable massive expansion of your prime audience. It is well-known that among the various fundraising channels, direct mail appeals mostly to the oldest demographic. Your files typically have a median donor age of mid-70s.
The direct-mail donors of the future are already born; we need only look to see who and where they are. As they retire, their numbers will grow relative to the size of the working-age population until 2030, when there will be three retired baby boomers for every 10 workers.
In 2006, an estimated 37 million people in the United States — 12 percent of the population — were 65 and older. Projections forecast that by 2030, approximately 71.5 million people will be 65 and older, representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population.
The retired portion of the population will grow dramatically as the baby boomers slip into retirement over the next two decades. The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Actuary projects that the number of Social Security beneficiaries per 100 workers will increase from 25 beneficiaries in 2000 to 26 in 2010, 32 in 2020 and 39 in 2030. Direct-mail fundraising will expand and continue to grow as this audience grows.
Aging baby boomers are already beginning to read previously ignored solicitations and make donations. Studies of boomers now aged 60 to 63 shows they are beginning to convert from non-responders to donors.
While online marketing will grow at a faster pace because it has such a small base (estimated at $8 billion this year), direct mail will account for a larger share of individually donated funds for at least the next 10 years.
Geoff Peters is president and CEO of the CDR Fundraising Group.