How to Integrate Direct Mail Appeals With Your Online Fundraising

6 min
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profile photo for Classy blog contributor Ellie Burke
Ellie Burke

Recently, the United States Post Office (USPS) increased their postage prices by 10% and the postage cost of marketing mail (bulk rates) by 2.5%. That pushes the price of stamps from 50 to 55 cents. It may not seem huge, but for nonprofits that send a lot of direct mail appeals it adds up quickly.

Get All the Postage Price Details Here

This increase potentially changes how many pieces of direct mail you can send, and you may need to adjust your direct mail budget to accommodate the new postage prices. It can be tempting to focus on more instantaneous and cost-effective channels, but you should not abandon your direct mail strategy. Instead, integrate online and offline fundraising together: it isn’t an either-or situation, but rather a best-of-both-worlds scenario.

For your nonprofit, direct mail is still an effective touch point for donors that prompts them to get more involved and further contribute to your cause. Bringing the two strategies together can help:

  • Create multiple touch points
  • Drive traffic to other channels
  • Build a personal relationship with donors
  • Increase the lifetime value of donors

Design and Write Direct Mail With Online in Mind

According to Pursuant, the more interactions a donor has with your organization across multiple channels, the greater their lifetime value becomes. Direct mail is one of those channels, and while it’s still an effective fundraising touchpoint on its own it can also help steward supporters to your other channels, like online fundraising campaigns.

In fact, when used in conjunction with your online fundraising efforts, direct mail can drive engagement and donations:

  • The response rate on direct mail is 6 percent
  • 50 percent of donors are more likely to respond to direct mail when they receive multiple messages across different channels (like social media, email, etc)
  • Donors are three times more likely to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than an e-appeal
  • 35 percent of donors say they prefer to respond to direct mail by giving online or via mobile devices

Below, we outline some best practices that can help your nonprofit.

Maintain Consistent Branding

In order for your direct mail to be effective, recipients need to open it in the first place. A well branded envelope or postcard can help with that. Effective direct mail pieces actually have a lot in common with email. Your email communications are an extension of your brand and your direct mail letters are an opportunity to take that branding further as well. Each piece of mail should have a similar look and feel to the design of your website, emails, and social media pages.

Keep in mind that the outside of the email (the subject line) is just as important as the inside, and that the outside of a direct mail letter (the envelope) is no different. Add a short phrase to the outside that calls the reader to open the letter for a specific reason. To further increase open rates, incorporate your logo, an impactful image, and your organization’s colors on the envelope itself.

Have a Strong Hook

After a supporter opens your envelope, you need to quickly grab their attention before your letter gets tossed aside. To help hook someone’s attention, consider cutting out your first sentence and just dive straight into what you want to say with a powerful fact or statistic.

“Almost everybody, including me, starts with a weak first sentence. Don’t warm up. Start with action—whether that’s telling a story, asking, or saying something nice about the donor.”

Jeff Brooks
GuideStar Author

Background information is useful, but you don’t need to use it on your direct mail. Instead, put a link to your website or campaign page where someone can go and read all the details around who you are, what you do, and who you serve.

Use Visuals and Digestible Presentation

You’ve gotten someone to open your direct mail, you’ve hooked their attention, and now you need to steward them from top to bottom. To ensure that someone stays focused on your content, incorporate visual elements, data rich information, and small blocks of copy.

Presenting information in digestible snippets like this can increase the chances your audience follows through with a desired action. Maybe you want them to visit your website, sign up for your email newsletter, mail a check in, or complete an online donation. Regardless, graphic design and a smart layout can make your ask stand out loud and clear.

Pro Tip
Don’t ignore post script messages: they’re one of the most read parts of a direct mail letter. Consider saving your call to action, or repeat it, in the post script to really drive your message home.

Transition Offline Donors to Online Donors

You can also include a section for supporters to write in their email address when they mail in a donation. This way, you can begin to transition donor segments off your direct mail list and onto your email appeal list.

Once someone respond to a piece of direct mail with a gift, and the email address written in, add them to your email distribution list. When the time comes for your next appeal, send a piece of direct mail to these people and send them an email appeal. As soon as they respond to your online appeal over the direct mail appeal, and make an online gift, you can remove them from your direct mail list.

Track Your Success

It can be difficult to track how well your direct mail resonates with your audience. You know it hits home with the people who mail back a donation to your nonprofit. But how can you know the amount of people who go from your direct mail to your website? To effectively track your success and see a fuller picture around your direct mail, it’s imperative you include a link to your website, campaign page, or social media pages.

Within this link you can embed specific tracking parameters, or even generate a unique QR code, that gives you insight into how many people came to your site and which piece of mail they engaged with to get there.

Learn How to Build Tracking Links

Send Handwritten Notes

While your direct mail efforts should aspire to integrate with your online presence, it’s important to note that there is a time and a place for the occasional truly offline message. A personal, handwritten thank you is still an effective use of direct mail for your nonprofit organization. It’s an emblem of special care, and a person’s time and will undoubtedly stand out in the mailbox mix of advertisements and bills.

Though offline in the sense that a personal thank you does not link directly to your online efforts, this personal communication will still feed your online channels by developing the donor’s positive impression of your organization as a whole. It’s also one way you can build and strengthen lifelong relationships with donors that keep them coming back to support your nonprofit time and time again.

When you integrate online and offline tactics together, you can reach donors in a personalized way that also prompts them to take action beyond mailing in a check. In order to stay up on all your critical donor touchpoints, download our free guide 9 Email Templates for Nonprofit Annual Communication Plan below, or get 13 Donor Retention Email Templates to keep donors coming back for more.


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