The Catholic Fundraiser

6 Tips On Approaching Direct Mail in Today’s Fundraising Landscape

Posted by National Catholic Development Conference on 3/15/17 1:38 PM

6 Tips On Approaching Direct Mail in Today’s Fundraising Landscape.jpg

Although today’s fundraising landscape is constantly changing, you can still be successful with a well-thought-out direct mailing campaign.

Consider using these next six tips when developing your fundraising strategy.

Tip #1: Replenish Your Diminishing Donor List

One of the biggest advantages of direct mail is building your donor list. Once a donor gives via direct mail, they are more likely to give again.

“Direct mail lists are invaluable. People like mail, trust mail, and respond to mail. Acquiring lists (from reputable direct mail companies) is worthwhile. In the long run, these lists keep your non-profit going. Your house list will deplete over time, and you must replenish it to be able to support your non-profit.” [Sean Finnegan, Lawrence Direct, “Why Direct Mail is Still a Key Fundraising Technique”]

Tip #2: Direct Mail Is Still Working

“Direct mail is over seven times more effective than all digital channels combined, according to the Direct Marketing Association Response Rate Report 2015.” The report confirms what has been a long-standing, top method in fundraising, with good reason.

“Median direct mail response rates to house-file lists were 3.7 percent, survey respondents reported. Email, social media, paid search, mobile and internet display together tallied only a 0.52 percent median response. Direct mail’s overall prospect-file response rates were 10 times that of email, which came in at just 0.1 percent.” [Sequel Response, “2015 DMA study: Direct mail response rates leave digital in the dust”]

Tip #3: Support Your Other Giving Channels

While direct mail has long since been its own successful channel to donations, it can also be a powerful way to connect donors to other media channels. For example, using QR codes and personalized URLs (PURLs) allows current or potential donors to view a landing page that can be changed and updated. You can also easily connect donors to an online experience like a video or photo slideshow.

“Creating a direct mail piece that comes to life and can be manipulated by your prospects and customers is very powerful.” [Summer Gould,, “Five Ways To Spice Up Your Direct Mail Marketing In 2017”]

Note: At NCDC, we know that learning how to connect and communicate with a  younger generation can be a challenge, but that’s why we’ve put together an  eBook to help you learn how to effectively engage with millennials in order to  raise more money this year —  5 Ways to Engage Millennials and Raise More this  Year.

Tip #4: Test It On All Ages

Ranging from the smallest misconceptions to “direct mail is dead,” direct mail may be the biggest victim of fundraising fallacies. “Direct mail is junk” can be debunked by the Institute of Fundraising/fast.MAP Fundraising Media DNA study, which indicates direct mail is welcomed and ranks highly as a preferred channel. Studies also refute that “direct mail is just for old people,” which show high engagement and response levels to direct mail among 18-34 year olds. [Institute of Fundraising, “Debunking Direct Mail Myths”]

Tip #5: Be Creative With Your Designs

Of course the real substance of a direct mail piece is the letter inside. But first, a donor has to get past the envelope. More importantly, they have to notice the envelope.

Jeff Brooks gives some examples of crazy envelopes that may help your piece stand out in the mailbox. One envelope, done for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, uses a red wavy flap, making it instantly stand out amongst other similar sized envelopes, albeit most likely at a custom price. Another lower-price example simply prints the envelope upside down. While it may seem like a mistake, it certainly catches the recipient’s attention and at no added expense! [Jeff Brooks, Future Fundraising Now, “The amazing power of crazy envelopes in direct mail fundraising”]

Tip #6: Show Donors Their Impact

It’s tempting to use statistics and facts to explain why your mission needs support or how a donor’s gift will make a difference.

But the most effective appeals reach a donor’s heart, rather than their head.

Use your direct mail pieces to tell the emotional stories of your ministries and how each donor’s gift will support those stories. “You can tame and focus the emotions you need. Stories give you a great container for those feelings. They can make the same points statistics might. But they make them in a more powerful way.” [Mary Cahalane,, “How to Wreck Your Fundraising Appeal”]

If you’re interested in learning more about how to effectively communicate with the millennial generation and in turn raise more this year, we invite you to check out our new eBook — 5 Ways to Engage Millennials and Raise More this Year.