Thank you Grant Cobb for today’s blog post. Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.
Here’s a hypothetical for you: You’re working with your programming director to plan fundraising events and campaigns for the year. You both have a goal to make your fundraising more successful, and as you talk, you keep coming back to things that have worked fairly well in the past. You both agree those ideas could use some freshening up. But, at the end of the conversation, you decide it’s just easier to keep doing things the way you’ve always done them.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation before. On the one hand, changing directions with events or programming takes a lot of time and resources, and might even be a little stressful. But on the other hand, relying on the same fundraising strategies year after year gets old—for both your organization and your donors.
That’s why starting with little changes can make a big difference in how successful you are in raising money for your cause. One of those often overlooked changes that can be easily implemented in your fundraising plans—and have a big payoff— is direct mail.
According to GivingMail’s guide to direct mail for nonprofits, “direct mail is so useful for nonprofits because of how different it is from any other channel.” The main reason that direct mail stands out is that it’s physical, which is a different experience now that fundraising is done primarily online.
Plus, people like receiving mail they care about, because that’s out of the norm from the regular pile of bills they sort through every day. Direct mail can even help you reach your various donor demographics in different ways. For example, older donors see direct mail as a medium they’re comfortable with, while younger donors might see it as a unique way of being contacted by your nonprofit, especially in the post-COVID era.
That said, direct mail offers a ton of powerful benefits for fundraising organizations. In this post, we’ll walk you through five different fundraisers you can host via direct mail:
- Fundraising Letter Campaign
- Peer-to-Peer Print Campaign
- Fundraising Postcard Campaign
- Order-By-Mail Fundraiser
- Fundraising Communication Package Campaign
One thing to remember as you’re deciding which direct mail fundraiser to go with is that you don’t have to completely abandon your digital fundraising strategies for direct mail. Instead, look at direct mail as a tool that can help you to supplement the fundraising strategies you already know and love. Let’s get started!
- Fundraising Letter Campaign
A fundraising letter is simply a letter you write to a supporter that asks them to give money to your cause. A well-written fundraising letter leads to a much different donation solicitation experience for a donor than the usual call to action on your nonprofit’s social media posts or email newsletters.
So, how do you write a good fundraising letter? Here are some best practices to follow, according to GivingMail’s article on writing fundraising letters:
- Always start with a personalized salutation. Don’t launch into your fundraising appeal right off the bat. Ease into the letter by reminding the donor you know they’re a real person. Try “Dear Sam,” or “Hello, Barbara!” If you don’t have a specific name to work with, “Dear Friend” is a great option.
- Grab the donor’s attention in the opening. Start with one high-level piece of information that the donor can hold onto. An eye-opening statistic or “Did you know…” question works really well.
- Explain your cause. When people are considering giving their money to a nonprofit, they want to know what it will be used for. State your mission specifically, and make sure to position the donor as the hero of your organization’s cause. Try something like, “Last year, generous supporters like you donated over 50,000 pairs of shoes.”
- Use a story with a human touch. Share a story of someone who has been affected by your efforts and tap into your potential donors’ emotions. People will give to causes that move them and that they can relate to.
- Include engaging images. Visuals can also help readers connect your cause to their emotions. Make sure the images are striking and placed intuitively in the text. But don’t overdo it and clutter the letter—you want your message to remain front and center.
- End with a clear call-to-action. Choose one thing you want your donor to do (usually you will be asking for a monetary donation). Clearly state your call-to-action at the end of the fundraising letter and give thorough instructions that will help the donor complete the action.
Remember to focus on humanizing your letters. On top of a personalized salutation, a signature from a real individual at your organization and a genuine thank you for any past support will go a long way in helping you secure donations.
As with all direct mail, make sure to account for the time needed to print your fundraising letters and stuff envelopes. We suggest you do this through a direct mail fundraising company, because they’ll do all of that work for you. With the right company you’ll not only save time, but money, too, because working with a direct mail provider often costs less than it would for you to buy your own paper, envelopes, and stamps. After your letters are sent out, allow a couple weeks for the letters to go out before watching for results.
- Peer-to-Peer Print Campaign
You likely have experience putting peer-to-peer fundraising ideas into action. In a typical peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, your supporters turn to their own networks to solicit donations in person or via digital donation pages. You can put a fun twist on peer-to-peer campaigns by trying one in print. Simply follow these steps:
- Mail a short fundraising letter or postcard to your supporters with information about how to fundraise for your organization. (Alternatively, you could give out copies at a fundraising event or volunteer opportunity.)
- Include a manageable number of copies (we suggest three to five) supporters can personalize. Leave space for them to write a note about what your cause means to them.
- Instruct your supporters to personalize the extra letters or cards and mail them to friends or family members that might be interested in donating to your cause. Include stamps and envelopes as needed, as this will take any hassle out of the process for your supporter. If they have all the mailing materials in front of them, they will be more likely to follow through.
This “old fashioned” peer-to-peer fundraising method puts a personalized spin on typical online fundraisers. Supporters’ friends and families will be more likely to give or get involved with your cause if they hear about it from someone they trust. Plus, they’ll enjoy finding a letter or postcard from someone they care about in their mailbox.
- Fundraising Postcards
Fundraising postcards offer a powerful direct mail engagement opportunity that bypasses the “getting your envelope opened” issue altogether.
Postcards are much smaller than a letter printed on normal paper, so they can’t carry as much information. That’s what makes them useful for sharing a single call-to-action in a quick way.
Plus, postcards focus primarily on visuals, so you have a good opportunity to choose a striking image that captures the heart of your cause. Just make sure to adhere to your organization’s brand when designing this visual element.
Fundraising postcards are easy to create and send out, and, when they’re well-designed, they’ll likely find a home on your supporters’ refrigerators, which will serve as a constant reminder of the cause they care about.
For the best results, you might even send your postcards after a big event. This can remind donors of what you accomplished by providing them with a memorable image from your event and then encourage them to give more. This will help you retain donors and make them into lifelong supporters.
- Order-by-Mail Fundraiser
There’s no doubt that donating is especially fun for supporters when they get a little something in return. Try hosting an order-by-mail fundraiser to sell specific products, like coffee beans, dog treats, cookie dough, wrapping paper, or tins of popcorn. (Hint: Check out this great list of products to sell in a fundraiser.)
To make this type of fundraiser easier on the donor, you might consider adding a shortened URL or QR code to the physical piece of mail that will direct them to an online order form. That way, you can mail out a list of product options and then collect orders and payments online. But you can always stick to a traditional mail-in-order form, too, and collect checks, or have donors pay when their product gets dropped off by someone on your team.
An order-by-mail fundraiser is fun because it’ll remind older supporters of ordering from catalogs. Plus, they’ll have more mail (or a product dropped off in-person) to look forward to in the near future.
Make sure to include a donor thank-you note with every product delivery or package. It’ll remind donors that you’re grateful for them, not just the sale you’ve made on a scratch card or box of chocolates.
- Fundraising Communication Package Campaign
A fundraising communication package is typically a bigger piece of mail, often sent in a packet containing multiple parts. You might include a letter from your board members, a brochure that covers the ins and outs of your volunteer program, a sheet with key statistics about your nonprofit’s performance over the last year, along with a fundraising letter. You can even include fun swag, too, like stickers or postcards.
Since communication packages are expensive to print and send, we recommend you use them when your ROI will be high. For example, you might reserve the use of communication packages for major donor prospects to larger campaigns, like a capital campaign that runs for multiple years and is focused on an especially large goal.
When creating a communication package, be sure to focus on branding and to refine your fundraising appeals. You want to make sure you get the most mileage out of the communication package as you can, so designing it well before you need to send it out to your donors is crucial.
With so much of our world in the digital sphere, direct mail provides a unique approach to fundraising that donors won’t be expecting. As you incorporate direct mail into your current fundraising strategies, remember to rely on the human touch in all of your communications. Showing your donors you genuinely care about your mission and about their relationship with your organization will set you up for fundraising success and strong donor retention.