Is Direct Mail Fundraising Effective for Nonprofits in 2021?

Jaycen Thorgeirson
Founder & Chief Storyteller
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As a nonprofit, money is often tight. Unlike large corporations, you can’t absorb the losses from ineffective or non-measurable marketing campaigns. Every dollar you spend has to count.

When you’re determining your marketing strategy, you’ve likely considered direct mail, and wondered: is it still worth it in 2021? 

At UviaUs, we’ve seen direct mail fundraising campaigns raise millions for our clients… but before we introduce you to our stories, let’s take a step back. How does Direct Mail Fundraising work? And has it been proven to be effective in this digital age?

Direct Mail Fundraising for Nonprofits

Before we decide whether or not direct mail fundraising is effective, let’s establish what it is first. 

Direct Mail Fundraising is a marketing strategy where you send direct mail or gifts directly to potential donors to inspire them to give to your organization. 

Direct Mail Fundraising is characterized by two main factors:

  • Physicality: your prospective donor receives a physical item, whether that’s paper or a dimensional package. .
  • Specific targeting: by the nature of mail, you need to select your recipients in advance, either using demographic and geographic information. 

These two factors make Direct Mail Fundraising a very different option than digital marketing. Direct Mail Fundraising is typically a more expensive option than digital marketing, but has been shown to have a larger ROI. 

But we’ll explore more about the results of Direct Mail Fundraising later. First, let’s discuss the different types of direct mail fundraising available to nonprofits.

Types of Direct Mail Fundraising for Nonprofits

There are two primary kinds of direct mail fundraising, and they are mainly characterized by how you select your audience. 

The main question to ask is: are you seeking support from an audience already introduced to your organization, or searching to build support from a brand-new audience?

Housefile Campaigns

Housefile campaigns are direct mail marketing campaigns using your existing list of interested contacts. 

These are either previous donors, who have already given money or volunteered time to your organization, or prospects who have expressed interest in your cause by opting into your mailing list. 

Because these prospects are already familiar with you, these campaigns tend to be more successful than reaching out to people who have never heard of you. 

For this reason, this is commonly the first recommended campaign approach for nonprofits. Once you’ve received returns from a Housefile Campaign, you can reinvest your resources into prospecting.

Prospecting Campaigns

Prospecting Campaigns mean sending your direct mail to prospects who have likely never heard of your organization. The goal of this campaign is often to introduce your cause and inspire the recipient to learn more and get involved, by either donating or volunteering. 

Even though you will be reaching out to “cold” prospects who have not heard of you previously, this type of campaign still requires researching your audience. You will want to narrow down your prospective households as much as possible to improve your ROI.

For instance, you could send your mailer to every single home in Los Angeles… or you could find out the demographic most likely to support your cause, and send your direct mail campaign to them alone. 

This kind of focused targeting will greatly improve your returns.

Effectiveness of Direct Mail Fundraising for Nonprofits

Now, let’s answer the big question at hand: is direct mail fundraising effective for nonprofits?

We’ve seen it work for our clients, but let’s see what other surveys have found.

  • 67% of mail recipients say that mail is more personal than the internet (USPS)
  • 80% of millennials pay attention to physical mail, while 50% ignore digital ads (The Shopping Shift)
  • 41% of Americans look forward to checking their mail each day (Gallup)
  • 4.4% average response rate for direct mail compared to email’s 0.12% (Data & Marketing Association)

In brief, direct mail is more likely to be perceived positively by your audience, as well as have more of an emotional impact. It’s also much more likely to get a response than an email campaign or any other purely digital marketing strategy.

It’s not just brochures anymore

In our direct mail fundraising campaigns, we’ve noticed that the best campaigns aren’t just paper, and they aren’t just a video online. The best direct mail campaigns are multimedia, linking digital and physical elements for a remarkable experience. 

AccuData, an integrated marketing solution, found that campaigns incorporating both direct mail and at least one digital element showed an 118% increase in response rate. Our experience has borne this out as well. 

We’ll give examples in future articles, but as you explore your direct mail fundraising strategy, keep in mind that you’re not restricted to the one-page flyer or thin brochure that usually gets tossed out with the grocery store coupons. 

Don't Miss Next Weeks Blog:

Best Practices for Direct Mail Marketing

To learn more about direct mail marketing and see some of the most effective examples, check out the links below:

Next week, we’ll share our best practices for direct mail fundraising. We’ve seen this work for many of our clients, and we want to share with you the best tips to raise the most money for your cause.

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