Direct Mail: 'Old Fashioned' but it Still Works
Here are some reasons why I think direct mail belongs in nearly every fundraiser's arsenal:
- Direct mail often has more shelf-life than electronic communications.
- Direct mail can use more real estate when needed to both show and tell your story.
- Direct-mail messages can be easily targeted; sometimes just minor copy changes can reignite lapsed donors or get a donor to engage at a deeper level.
- Direct mail has a proven track record and known methodologies that increase response and donor connection.
- A good direct-mail program that is interesting, offers variety and is frequent enough can be the foundation of support for a nonprofit.
So as you consider your fundraising program for the last quarter of the calendar year — those all-important 92 days for fundraising — think about direct mail, and then take these steps so it fulfills its promise.
Step 1: Look at what others are mailing.
If you have samples like I do, that's a great "classroom." If you haven't been intentionally collecting direct mail, vow now to do that for 2014. But in the meantime, check out Who's Mailing What! — a robust online collection of mail (and e-mail, as well). What stands out to you? What's new? What would you like to model after? Obviously if a mailing was probably sent to a million recipients it may not be a feasible format if you're mailing a few thousand, but examine it for things you can emulate.
Step 2: Filter your observations through common sense.
Several years ago, I learned an important lesson: the big nonprofits may not always follow best practices because they aren't dependent on the results of the mailing to make the next payroll. (That's not an across-the-board statement — just something to be mindful of.) As a reader of this newsletter, you regularly see advice that others have proven in the laboratory of real life. If you have mailed before, you have your own experience. Bring all that knowledge together as you plan your strategy.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.