The Nuts and Bolts of Direct Mail

By Erica Waasdorp

Before I got ‘hooked’ on monthly giving, I was already a direct mail ‘aficionado’. Why? Because direct mail works. Because people respond to it. Because you can measure what you’re doing. You can see how many fundraising messages you mail out and how many donations you receive back.

But yet, so many people are no longer ‘trained’ in direct mail. They think that all donations are generated by social media. They think that everybody does everything on their smart phone.

For the past 35 years, I was fortunate to work at Reader’s Digest and later for and with a number of nonprofits that were so driven by direct mail and saw how important testing was within the campaigns they were doing.

Always improving. Always finding ways to do things cheaper or better, to get more responses. Isn’t that what you and I as fundraisers are always trying to do? Improve? Raise more money? Upgrade more doors?

So, when I started presenting webinars on monthly giving, I asked the question: “How many times do you appeal to your donors for money in the mail?” And so many said: never, once a year, twice a year, with some exceptions who mail 4 or more times a year.

Well, if many organization’s year-end appeal results are any indication, direct mail still responds at 600% or higher compared to email messages. I’m seeing cost to raise a dollar of $0.05 to $0.10 in some cases!  And that is just looking at the donations that are directly attributable to the appeal (in other words that came in with a reply form).

This means that direct mail still works. Yes, is it more expensive than email, absolutely. But not 600% more expensive.

And the good news is that you can create a direct mail appeal and create an email appeal variation as a version, so you can totally repurpose the content. Especially those donors who are responding to direct mail and email will be more engaged than those who respond via direct mail or email only.

At a recent conference, the ASPCA, one of the top 50 mailers in the country, shared that between 7 to 10% of their most recent new online donors were trackable to their direct mail campaign. Yes, they donated online, but they would have never gone online if it wasn’t for the direct mail piece.

So, direct mail is not dead and it must be part of your fundraising strategy. But, many fundraisers do not know how direct mail works and what’s important. Yes, storytelling and writing letters and emails are important, but it’s also crucial to look at targeting, timing, design, print, production and postage. That’s what you’ll get in the Webinar: The Nuts and Bolts of Direct Mail!  

About The Author

Erica Waasdorp is President of A Direct Solution, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Erica lives and breathes direct response and fundraising and can be considered a Philanthropyholic. She has published one of the very few books on monthly giving, called Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant. She co-authored the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter and Marketing  Kits and she regularly blogs and presents in person and via webinars on anything direct mail, appeals and monthly giving.

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