The Direct Mail Fundraising Debate: Does it Still Work?

One of the biggest current debates among businesses and non-profits regarding marketing and fundraising is whether or not direct mail still works. We’ll get to the statistics in a minute, but first, let’s look at the pros and cons of using direct mail as a means of fundraising:

Pros of Direct Mail

One of the biggest reasons to use direct mail is because it allows you to directly target those you want to target, without wasting money communicating with those who aren’t likely to contribute to your organization. This isn’t true of TV, radio, magazine, newspaper, or almost any other type of mass communication. Direct mail is highly targetable.

Another reason to use direct mail is that it is relatively cheap. You can launch a direct mail campaign for just a few thousand dollars, which is an exponentially lower cost than any other type of mass media.

Finally, direct mail is completely track-able.   We’ll talk more about metrics in a little bit, but know that you can easily track your returns from direct mail to see which pieces are working, and which aren’t… and, you can make changes quickly and cheaply. This is less true in mediums like TV or even online communications.

Cons of Direct Mail

Of course, there are lots of problems and concerns that organizations have with using direct mail. First and foremost among them is the fact that people just don’t use the mail like they used to. Now, people do most of their personal communications online, over the phone, through text-messages, etc. Thus, it is easier for people to say things like, “all I get are bills and junk mail,” and treat your direct mail letter accordingly.

Second, while direct mail is cheap compared to TV and radio appeals, it is much more expensive than using things like e-mail appeals and website fundraising.

Finally, direct mail takes time – you have to write the letters, hone the list, track responses, remove people from your list, change addresses, etc. This requires staff or volunteer time which could be used on other projects within your organization.

The Verdict on Direct Mail

The final verdict on direct mail fundraising...

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