Is direct mail right for you?

  DENNIS HOFFMAN, CEO   ENGAGE USA

DENNIS HOFFMAN, CEO
ENGAGE USA

No.  It’s not.

It’s expensive, inconvenient, and an incredibly inefficient way to fundraise for your organization.

With that said, if your group is able to use direct mail to fundraise, it should.

Now that you’re completely confused, I’ll explain what I mean.

In 1947, Sir Winston Churchill famously said, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time...”

Though the two-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was discussing forms of government, he could just as easily have been talking about direct mail versus all other forms of donor outreach. 

Taken at face value, you may think direct mail is a pricey and complicated way to solicit donations -- and you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking so.  But despite this, direct mail fundraising remains the single most effective method to raise money from a large pool of donors.

A 2014 study of donor demographics and habits called, the Burk Donor Study, determined “on a year-to-year basis, direct mail remains the most popular form of gift transaction by number of respondents participating.”  A similar study published in 2010 called, Heart of the Donor, stated 61% of those donating in the past year made at least one of those donations through direct mail.  Surprisingly, many of those donors contributing via direct mail fell into the 25-54 age range -- a group that you might expect to favor email or social media.

So why is it that in the age of the internet direct mail is still leading the pack? 

For one thing, the alternatives just aren’t any better.  Special fundraising events require a huge outlay in cost and time to put together.  Email works particularly well so long as your issue is in the news or part of current events, but not so much in general.  And grants or large single donations typically come with a list of restrictions attached.

Direct mail has long been -- and continues to be -- the workhorse of fundraising.  It’s highly targetable, very personal, and a well-designed direct mail package in your hands is much more appealing than a simple template email -- especially when it’s sitting on top of 50 identical promotional emails in your inbox. 

So, is direct mail the most “perfect or all-wise” method for collecting donations for your non-profit?  There’s no way.

But, until we discover a better one?  Direct mail should be your organization’s go-to.