Direct mail fundraising can help you go surround sound.

Jun 2, 2022

Is direct mail fundraising dead? Of course not!

Yes, digital strategies often dominate the conversation. And It’s no wonder they’re at fundraising’s forefront, considering the huge role emails, text messages, and social media play in today’s world.

It wasn’t too long ago that nonprofit communications just focused on direct mail. But today, a surround sound approach using cross-channel communications is the best way for fundraisers to get their message heard.

So, direct mail should still be an important part of your fundraising strategy. But to truly go surround sound, we need to look at direct mail fundraising differently. Your appeal mailers do not stand alone.

They should work with your other communications to share a cohesive message across multiple platforms.

Direct mail and digital communications go together like popcorn and a movie. They're better together.

Like milk and cookies.

Direct mail and digital strategies are better when they go together. Just like milk and cookies or popcorn and a movie!

In fact, campaigns that used direct mail and at least one digital communication had a 118 percent higher response rate compared to using direct mail only, according to Nonprofits Source.

An effective approach will use digital communications and direct mail fundraising that work together to stand out and inspire donors to give.

READ MORE: The do’s and don’ts of going surround sound.

Donors are three times more likely to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than an email.

Direct donors to your website.

Would you be shocked to learn that direct mail is one of the biggest drivers of online giving? Well, it’s true!

Did you know donors are three times more likely to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than an email, according to MobileCause.

Our friends in the marketing world will tell you that it can take up to eight touches before converting a new prospect. And this pattern holds true in the nonprofit sector. So, it might take a few tries before you move that prospect to the donor category.

Today, people are busier than ever. And if someone intended to donate after receiving your email, there’s a chance they just forgot to go back and finish making the gift! But direct mail fundraising is a great way to remind those donors who intended to give but got sidetracked.

Your appeal letter serves as a physical reminder.

A donor can open your appeal package, go to work, come home, and it will still be waiting for them on the kitchen table. After they eat dinner, it’s still there. And now, they have time to go online and make the donation.

So, make sure the URL of your donation page is featured clearly in your direct mailer.

The reverse is true as well. Email can be a great follow-up to a direct mail piece. It’s not one or the other – it’s both!

READ MORE: Let’s talk about your online donation page.

FREE eBOOK: Fantastic Fundraising Emails - The complete guide for nonprofits

Parts of a whole.

When you launch a campaign that leverages direct mail fundraising with digital strategies, it should be clear your cross-channel communications are part of the same initiative. This gives donors a more complete and connected experience.

And that’s what we mean by surround sound! Communications across different mediums should work together to reach donors with a compelling and consistent message.

So, make it clear your appeal package and email are part of the same campaign by using a similar design and other visual elements. When a donor opens your appeal letter and sees the same picture featured in your email, they will connect the dots.

Also, make sure the fonts, logos, images, and design themes in your appeal letters remind donors of digital messages in the campaign.

And don’t forget to keep the tone of your message and the stories you tell consistent as well.

You can give your stories more depth by building on them throughout the communications cycle. For example, your initial email can start telling a story about someone in need and explain how your organization wants to help.

Your next few touches can use email or social media to continue building the story. And remember to explain how donations are making an impact as the story unfolds!

Then, after you hit your goal, you can share the story’s happy ending in thank you letters and emails.

READ MORE: The four principles of visual storytelling.

You can't go surround sound if you don't have a donor's current address.

Do you have dirty data?

Using direct mail fundraising paired with digital outreach strategies allows you to take personalization to the next level. But some words from experience: make sure you have a clean database before planning such a campaign. Otherwise, build gradually.

For example, if contact information in your database is out of date, your donors may not receive every part of your message!

So, make sure you have a donor’s correct email address and current mailing address in your records.

Did you know, according to MobileCause, 11 percent of Americans change their mailing address each year? So, if you haven’t been practicing good data hygiene, you won’t be able to count on using your direct mail fundraising to drive donations.

READ MORE: Are you keeping good data hygiene?

PURLs bring each recipient to a website that feels as personal and relevant as your other communications.

“I have my own donation page?!?”

Once your data is in order, you can think about ways to apply the personalized approach across all channels in your campaign. Of course, you will want to address donors directly by name in your email subject line and on the outer envelope of your appeal letter.

But cross-channel communications allow you to go even further by using personalized URLs, or PURLs, to direct donors to unique and personalized campaign pages.

Instead of asking donors to go online to, you can present them with a PURL featuring their name, like 

PURLs bring each recipient to a website that feels as unique and relevant as your other personalized communications! When they land on the page, you can greet them by name and refer to specific programs they’ve supported in the past.

And this approach extends the personalized experience through the entire donation process.

It helps show your organization values your donors as individuals. It makes it clear you know who your donors are and that you care about more than the money they can give.

PURLs can be a huge benefit to your organization. They’re an easy way to track exactly how much of your online fundraising is driven by your direct mail efforts. And you will get a better feel for which donors prefer giving in response to your direct mail pieces and which can be moved to a more digital-first approach.

READ MORE:  4 more ways nonprofits personalize communications.

The numbers don’t lie.

The average response rate for nonprofits is just 6 percent when using direct mail only, but shoots up to 37 percent when using web, email, and direct mail together, according to MobileCause.

So, you’re going to have a hard time getting a response if you’re relying on one channel to drive your fundraising efforts!

As we mentioned earlier, direct mail fundraising works best when augmented by a digital communications strategy. And you may be able to cut down on print and mailing costs by sending less direct mail to a more targeted audience. But you shouldn’t cut direct mail from your fundraising strategy altogether!

Our world becomes more digital every day. But direct mail fundraising is here to stay.

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FREE eBook: Fantastic fundraising emails - The complete guide for nonprofits.