The Secrets of Direct Mail for Nonprofits
Fundraising is the biggest challenge nonprofit organizations face. There are, however, tried-and-true methods that are essential to the success of a campaign. One of the most effective methods of marketing for nonprofits is direct mail.
So what are the secrets to success? Let’s review the basic regulations to be eligible for the nonprofit postage rates, some additional cost-saving measures and some personalization tricks to improve your next direct mail campaign.
Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail Eligibility
There are very strict rules you must follow so that your mail piece qualifies for the nonprofit postage rate. Here are the basic regulations:
1. Application. You must apply with the post office to be eligible for nonprofit rates. To apply, fill out this form (PDF) and send it into your local post office.
2. Nonprofit Authorization. Once you have been approved to mail at nonprofit rates, there are requirements on what you are mailing. You must only mail pieces that benefit your organization that has the nonprofit authorization. You cannot mail on behalf of another company.
3. Mail Quantity. Nonprofit mailings are treated by the post office for delivery standards the same as standard mail. This means that you must have at least 200 pieces in order to mail. You may also qualify to mail if you have at least 50 pounds when mailing bulky items.
4. Organization Name and Address. You must include your organization’s name and return address on the outer envelope and prominently on the inside piece, such as letterhead. The return address must match the address on file with the post office-approved nonprofit authorization forms.
5. Cooperative Mail. You can do a cooperative mailing with another organization and mail at nonprofit rates as long as both organizations are approved for nonprofit status with the post office.
6. Nonprofit Rate Eligibility. There is a six-step process to determine if your content is eligible for nonprofit rates.
7. Raffle Tickets. If you wish to mail out raffle tickets, you need to create the tickets with a suggested donation on tickets. For any other piece that mentions the tickets, include “no donation required to enter” or add a checkbox plus “Please enter my name in the drawing. I do not wish to make a donation at this time.” This will keep them in compliance with the USPS.
Postage Money-Saving Checklist
Now let’s talk about how you can save money on your mailings. There are several things to keep in mind. The first and easiest way to save money is to reduce your postage. Being a nonprofit, this is critical. Many factors can increase your postage costs. Here is a checklist of the top four ways.
1. NCOA. You can save on postage by making sure your mail list is current. Your mail service provider can run National Change of Address (NCOA) on your list to update addresses for people who have moved and drop addresses where a new address is not available.
2. Design. It is a good idea to run your mail piece designs by your mail provider, which can help you spot potential trouble before it costs you more postage. Elements such as advertisements that will disqualify you from nonprofit rates, color or formatting that is not automation compatible and so on could cost more.
3. Weight. Make sure not to overload your envelopes. For the best postage rates, keep the weight of each item less than 3.5 ounces. You can use fewer inserts or thinner paper stock to help keep you below the threshold.
4. Paper costs. To save on printing costs, try to get your paper on sale or possibly donated by the paper company. Also, make sure that you are not printing too many. Normal spoilage on direct mail is 10%, but in high quantities, that percentage will go down. Work with your mail provider to get the best quantity for them.
Personalization can help you in more than one way solicit more donations. Here are five tips.
1. Make it easy to fill out the reply form. If you can personalize not just the letter but the reply piece, you make it less time-consuming for the recipient to respond.
2. Base the donation amounts on the previous donation. Another benefit of personalizing the reply device is that you can personalize the donation amounts based on the last donation. For instance, if the donor last donated $200, make the first option $200 and then step the options up to $250 and so on. Increasing donations per donor is a great way to build up your ROI.
3. Give donors a choice in how they respond. Providing donors with their preferred response medium is easy for you and will increase your response. Provide them with multiple ways for them to respond, such as phone, mail, email, website and so on. List the method they used the last time first.
4. Gather more donor information. The more information you have on your donors the better you can personalize. If you don’t have much to start with, use what you have and gather more information about them from each mailing.
5. Tell a Story. Make sure that your copy is conversational and highlight an individual who has benefited from your organization. Providing a real person who the donor has helped by donating in the past provides a great incentive to help another person this time. You should always include a P.S. line, many people only read the headline and P.S.
In order to know what is working and not working, you need to track your responses. You can code the reply devices based on list or version or both. That way, you know which list had the best response and which offer did as well.
One way to find new donors is to take a look at your best donors and then find lists of people that are similar to them. Direct mail can be a great way to introduce your organization to new donors who are not familiar with you. Direct mail is not viewed as intrusive and can be held on to for a period of time without the issue of being forgotten.
Are you ready to get started creating great nonprofit direct mail?
Summer Gould is Account Executive at Neyenesch Printers. Summer has spent her 31 year career helping clients achieve better marketing results. She has served as a panel speaker for the Association of Marketing Service Providers conferences. She is active in several industry organizations and she is a board member for Printing Industries Association San Diego, as well as the industry chair for San Diego Postal Customer Council. You can find her at Neyenesch’s website: neyenesch.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @sumgould.