How to Use Direct Mail Campaign Strategies Online
Direct mail campaigns have long been the backbone of individual fundraising requests in the nonprofit community. And despite recent technological advances, in the form of email campaigns, social media, and online fundraising, it is still the most reliable way to raise money. This in spite of the fact that these campaigns don’t focus user engagement, have a high upfront cost, and rely donors with little to no relationship with the organization. How can nonprofits, who don’t already have donor lists or the money to start these campaigns, compete with these efforts?
First, let’s look at how direct mail campaigns are they so successful. Here is what they do well:
They ask – while social media and email campaigns show lower response rates when it comes to donations, this is likely due to the fact that both platforms are also used for other communication strategies, such as advocacy and engagement. Direct mail, however, is always explicit in asking for the gift and making it easy for those to reply with a donation.
They are predictable – thanks to years of past results, and countless books on the subject, most nonprofits know what to expect when starting a direct mail campaign. By comparison – social media and online fundraising, especially for smaller nonprofits, have less reliable metrics in place. Because of this, nonprofits are more likely to continue to do what has worked in the past, thus adding even more results and predictability to the process.
They share secrets – how do nonprofits build up such big lists of potential donors for direct mail campaigns? They sell their own donor lists to other nonprofits. By doing so, they are both giving and receiving individuals with a higher propensity to give, thus increasing their chances of return on their investment.
They give thanks – some nonprofits have a system in place wherein they won’t cash the check until the donor has been thanked. Other nonprofits send small gifts as tokens of their appreciation. These small steps are vital for retaining donors over the long-term.
So what can nonprofits who are still wary of direct marketing do? Take a lesson from what they do best.
Make your ask obvious, and keep the donation process simple – far too often a donate button, or fundraising appeal, is hidden in email messages, on nonprofit websites, or not used at all in social media. If you are asking for help – ask for help. Make it obvious, and make the process of completing the donation, whether through an online portal or sending in a check, as obvious and easy as possible.
Work with other nonprofits – thanks to strict internet laws, buying email lists from other nonprofits is highly frowned upon. But that doesn’t mean your nonprofit can’t take advantage of other organizations and their audiences. Nonprofits are finding that by connecting with other organizations through social media, their content and appeals are spreading to new and unique audiences. Consider reaching out to other nonprofits in your field via Facebook or Twitter, and create a network of like-minded organizations. Together, you can capitalize on curation of content, and cultivation of potential donors.
Track any and all campaigns you do online – the best way for there to be more data, making it easier to predict future potential income, is to track key metrics in the campaigns your nonprofit is already performing. In addition to tracking, sharing this data is key. Whether it is with a nonprofit consultant, on your website’s blog, or just with other like-minded nonprofits, sharing of this information will only make the platform more accessible.
Focus on retaining the donors you have over acquiring new donors – we have spoken multiple times of the importance of thanking your donors, but it is important to reiterate again. And while most online fundraising software allows for automatic receipt of donations, and the ability to send a thank you, it is exceptionally important to send personal messages to new donors in order to keep them engaged.
Direct mail is still the king (or queen) of nonprofit individual donor fundraising – but it won’t always be. It is important to learn what skills and attributes make it successful, so that nonprofit marketers and fundraisers alike can utilize these skills across other communications platforms. Be direct. Keep it simple. Play nice with others. Gather data. Be thankful. Take your nonprofit to the next level.