What Does Your Board Need to Know About Direct Mail?
Direct mail can be a challenge, even under the best of circumstances. But despite its difficulties, industry research consistently indicates that, when it comes to funding your mission, direct mail still is the foundation of the most successful donor-contribution efforts.
Yet, all too often, CEOs, CFOs and boards of directors don’t really “get” direct mail.
It’s not really that surprising. Even those of us who work with direct mail regularly don’t always understand the subtle intricacies of how and why it works. No wonder it can seem arcane and confusing to those outside our esoteric world!
So to help you make your case to the skeptics, here are a few tips on how to explain the importance of your program, in language you don’t have to be a mail nerd to understand.
1. How it works
The “giving pyramid” — shown in Chart 1 — is a staple among fundraisers, but it’s less familiar to others. The purpose of direct mail is to bring in long-term donors and cultivate them up the pyramid so they become major givers.
Planned-giving officers often report that the majority of planned-giving gifts come from donors who began as direct-mail donors in the $25 range. So you literally can’t afford to underestimate the importance of acquiring and cultivating low- to mid-range donors!
2. The medium of the past, present and future
Even in this e-mail age, direct mail remains the foundation of a strong fundraising program. The surprising industry study reflected in Chart 2 shows Generation Y, the youngest generation of donors — those who theoretically are the most computer-savvy — actually is the fastest growing group of direct-mail readers.
Direct mail is even the preferred choice of e-mail donors. A study by McPherson Associates showed that of people who first contributed online, 70 percent renewed. But of that 70 percent who renewed, 80 percent renewed by mail.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.