Stand Proud and Don't Let the Direct-Mail Naysayers Get You Down
If there's one thing that gets a bad rap in the nonprofit world, it's direct mail. Recipients (clearly unenlightened!) call it "junk mail." Some nonprofit leaders claim it's dead and we should just play taps and get on with it. Others figure it's worth using as long as we can keep it "dirt cheap."
As someone who has worked with direct mail for my entire career, I cringe when I hear "junk mail," roll my eyes when I hear the claim that rigor mortis has set in, and continue to urge anyone who will listen to invest in direct mail — but do it right.
Simply put, because direct mail works. Randy Brewer of Brewer Direct recently said, "Let's not trade dollars for dimes," reflecting the reality that direct mail is still outraising newer forms of fundraising. Bottom line: It should never be "either/or" — smart fundraisers know they need to be digital-savvy, but they also need to be direct-mail-savvy.
So if you're managing the direct-mail program, here are tips to help silence the naysayers, or at least give them something to think about.
1. Stand proud
Unfortunately, after cutting their teeth on direct mail, many fundraisers are promoted to major gifts, planned giving or other "sexier" forms of fundraising. But the truth is, direct mail is often the foundation that those programs are built on. Major donors are cultivated — sometimes for years — through direct mail. Many planned-giving prospects were first acquired through direct mail.
I've done it all in fundraising — worked with a portfolio of major donors, planned events, promoted planned giving, managed telephone campaigns, wrote website copy, planned online campaigns and even wrote billboard copy. But direct mail is still my favorite. It's challenging. It's ever-changing. It's rewarding. Don't be ashamed if you, too, are a direct-mail champion. We stand in good company.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.