Complete Guide to Nonprofit Direct Mail

Beginner, Direct Mail, Guides

By Jeremy Reis

Direct mail is a type of marketing that involves sending physical letters or postcards to potential customers or donors. Direct marketing can be used for a variety of purposes, including raising awareness for a cause, promoting a product or service, or soliciting donations. For most nonprofits, direct mail is vital to their fundraising strategy.

In this guide, you will learn what direct mail is, a case for direct mail, planning successful direct mail campaigns, creating a compelling offer, how to write & design effective appeals, and how to choose the right format for your direct mail campaign.

Complete Guide to Nonprofit Direct Mail

  1. The Case for Direct Mail
  2. How to Plan a Nonprofit Direct Mail Campaign
  3. How to Create Compelling Direct Mail Offers
  4. How to Write Effective Nonprofit Direct Mail Copy
  5. How to Design Effective Nonprofit Direct Mail Creative
  6. How to Choose the Right Format for Your Nonprofit Direct Mail Campaign


What is direct mail fundraising?

Direct mail is any type of written communication sent through the postal service (or delivered by hand) to a targeted group of individuals. The most common type of direct mail used for fundraising is the appeal letter, which asks recipients to make a financial contribution to a nonprofit organization. However, direct mail can also take the form of postcards, greeting cards, newsletters, and more.

When done correctly, direct mail can be a cost-effective way to raise funds and build relationships with potential donors. However, it is important to understand the basics of direct mail before embarking on a direct mail campaign. In this article, we will provide an overview of what direct mail is, how it works, how to write and design a direct mail appeal, and some best practices for using direct mail to fundraise.

What is a direct mail campaign?

A direct mail campaign is a marketing effort in which businesses send physical mail to potential customers. This type of direct mailing can be used to generate leads, promote new products or services, cultivate relationships with current customers, or increase brand awareness. In addition to traditional mail, direct mail campaigns can also include targeted emails, annual reports, catalogs, postcards, and more.


The Case for Direct Mail

Direct mail fundraising involves sending a letter or postcard through the mail to potential donors in order to solicit donations. The letters generally include a pitch about the organization and how the donation will be used, as well as information about how to donate. While direct mail fundraising can be expensive and time-consuming, it can also be an effective way to reach new donors and raise money for your cause. Here’s a closer look at why direct mail works.

1. It’s Personalized

One of the benefits of direct mail is that it allows you to personalize your message to each donor. You can include their name in the letter, as well as specific information about how their donation will be used. Your mailing list contains all of the information needed about your donor base to successfully reach everyone from the new donor to existing donors. This personal touch can make donors feel appreciated and more likely to give.

2. It’s Tangible

With direct mail, donors can hold on to your message and refer back to it later. This is especially important for donor retention; if a donor doesn’t remember to give again, they can simply refer back to your original letter. Additionally, you can include other materials like brochures or packets with information about your organization and its work.

3. You Can Target Your Audience

When you send out a direct mail fundraising campaign, you can target specific audiences with personalized messages. For example, if you’re trying to reach new donors, you can send out a general appeal to households in your area. Direct mail services can help you develop the right segmentation for your direct mail letter to reach the right prospects. On the other hand, if you’re trying to solicit major gifts from existing donors, you can send them a more personalized letter outlining specific projects that their donation will go towards. By targeting your audience, you’re more likely to get the results you want from your direct mail campaign.

4. You Can Measure Results

Finally, one of the advantages of direct mail is that it’s easy to measure results. You can track how many letters are sent out, how many donations are received, and how much money is raised. This data can be used to fine-tune your next direct mail campaign so that it’s even more successful.

Direct mail fundraising is a great way to solicit donations from potential donors. It’s personal, tangible, targeted, and measurable—all qualities that make for an effective fundraising strategy. If you’re thinking about starting a direct mail campaign for your organization, keep these benefits in mind!


How to Plan a Nonprofit Direct Mail Campaign

Direct mail is one of the most effective marketing channels for nonprofits. It’s personal, it’s tangible, and it can be highly personalized to target your audience segments. But while direct mail can be an incredibly powerful tool, it’s also important to remember that it’s only one piece of the puzzle. An effective direct mail campaign must be part of a holistic marketing strategy that also includes digital marketing, phones, and other channels.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you plan a nonprofit direct mail campaign that works:

1. Planning Your Campaign

The first step is to clearly define your goals. What are you hoping to achieve with this campaign? Are you looking to increase brand awareness, acquire new donors, or retain existing donors? Once you know what you want to achieve, you can start planning your campaign.

2. Know Your Audience

It’s also important that you have a good understanding of who your target audience is. What motivates them? What do they care about? Answering these questions will help you develop messaging and content that resonates with your audience and encourages them to take action.

3. Develop a Timeline

Direct mail campaigns can take weeks or even months to plan and execute, so it’s important to develop a timeline early on. This will help ensure that everything stays on track and that your campaign launches on time.

4. Segment Your List

Start by segmenting your list. Who are you targeting with this campaign? What do they have in common? Segmenting your list will allow you to create targeted content that resonates with your audience. Your segmentation can be used in combination with digital fundraising (especially with social media advertising) to maximize your campaign’s profit.

5. Set Your Budget

How much are you willing to spend on this campaign? Keep in mind that direct mail is not free—you’ll need to factor in the cost of printing and postage as well as any additional costs associated with your offer (such as discounts or thank-you gifts). The United States Postal Service does offer discounted postage for nonprofits. Once you have all of these pieces in place, you’re ready to start creating your content.


How to Create Compelling Direct Mail Offers

From matching gifts toiderable tax deductions, there are many reasons why people donate to charities. But what drives someone to open their wallet and write a check? In order to be successful, direct mail fundraising needs to do more than simply ask for a donation; it needs to make a compelling case for why the recipient should give. When it reaches this level, it is a vital part of your nonprofit fundraising strategy.

Direct mail is one of the most effective nonprofit fundraising tools available, but only if it’s done right. In order to create a compelling direct mail offer, you need to understand what motivates people to give and craft your pitch accordingly. Read on to learn more about how to create an offer that will resonate with your audience and inspire them to open their wallets.

1. Urgency: Why Your Donors Need to Give Now

One of the most effective ways to create a compelling offer is to make it time-sensitive. Urgency powerfully motivates people to take action, which is why you’ll often see direct mail campaigns with deadlines for giving.

When crafting your offer, think about what would motivate your donors to give now rather than later. Is there an immediate need for your organization’s services? Are you about to launch a new program that your donors would be interested in supporting? By creating a sense of urgency, you can add excitement and energy to your campaign that will encourage donors to give now.

2. Exclusivity: Make Your Donors Feel Special

Exclusivity is another effective way to create a compelling offer. When people feel like they’re part of something special or exclusive, they’re more likely to take action. One thing we consistently hear from donors in surveys is the desire to be a part of a community. In your messaging, express how the donor is a part of a community larger than themselves.

3. Value: What’s in It for Your Donors?

Your donors want to know what their donation will do for your organization—so make sure you include this information in your offer. When writing copy for your direct mail piece, focus on the impact that their donation will have. Will it help fund a new program? Provide resources for families in need? Support research for a cure? Whatever it is, be specific about the difference their donation will make.

Including this type of value-focused language will not only help persuade your donors to give but also help build long-term relationships with them by showing them the tangible impact of their support.

4. Timely: The Timing is Right for the Direct Mail Donor

People are more likely to give when they’re prompted to do so at a time that’s convenient for them. Make sure your offer arrives at a time when your potential donor is likely to have the time and resources to consider your request.

5. Clarity: Your Ask is Clear

Your offer should be clear and concise, with a specific ask that tells the donor exactly what you need from them and how their donation will be used. Be as specific as possible so the donor knows exactly what their contribution will go towards.

6. Personal: There’s a Personal Touch

A personal note from a staff member or volunteer can go a long way in making your offer feel more personal and sincere. Taking the time to connect with potential donors on a human level will make them more likely to want to support your cause.

7. Focused: Your Appeal has a Single Purpose

Don’t try to accomplish too much with one appeal. Instead, focus on making a single ask so that donors can immediately understand how their gift will make a difference. If you try to communicate too many messages at once, you risk confusing and alienating potential donors.


How to Write Effective Nonprofit Direct Mail Copy

Your nonprofit’s direct mail campaign can be a powerful tool for soliciting donations and engaging potential supporters. But to be successful, your direct mail materials need to be well-written and persuasive. Here are some tips for crafting effective nonprofit direct mail copy.

1. Who is your audience?

This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s one that’s often overlooked. It’s important to remember that every fundraising campaign is different, and that means each campaign will have a different target audience. Keep this in mind when you’re crafting your direct mail copy so that you can ensure you’re speaking to the right people.

2. Start with a strong hook.

The first few sentences of your direct mail piece are crucial. You need to make a good impression right away and capture the reader’s attention so they’ll keep reading. Start with a strong hook that draws the reader in and makes them want to learn more.

For example, you might start by telling a personal story or sharing shocking statistics. Whatever you do, avoid starting your letter with a long, dull list of facts about your organization. That’s not likely to engage the reader or encourage them to keep reading.

3. What can you offer in return?

In order for your fundraiser to be successful, potential donors need to feel like their contribution will make a difference. Be sure to highlight how their donation will be used and what impact it will have. For example, if you’re raising money for a new school building, tell donors how many children will benefit from the new facility.

4. Write using urgent language.

A sense of urgency is important in many aspects of life, but it’s especially critical when you’re writing a fundraising letter. After all, you’re asking people for their hard-earned money, so you need to make it clear that their donation is needed right away. But how do you write with a sense of urgency without sounding desperate or making false claims?

Be clear about what your organization is trying to accomplish and why it’s important. Don’t try to cram too much information into your letter; just focus on one or two key points. And be sure to back up your claims with data or stories.

Urgency doesn’t have to mean panic. For example, if you’re raising money for a new building project, you can talk about the benefits that the new building will bring without making it sound like the old one is going to collapse imminently.

Be specific about what you need and when you need it by. For example, rather than saying “we need your help,” say “we need $5,000 by December 1st.” This creates a real sense of urgency without sounding begging or overly demanding.

When writing with urgency, avoid using abstractions or generalities. Instead, use concrete language that demonstrates the immediate impact of a donor’s gift. For example, rather than saying “Your gift will help us save lives,” try something like “Your gift of $50 will provide antibiotics for 10 people suffering from cholera.”

4. Make a clear case for support.

Once you’ve grabbed the reader’s attention, it’s time to make a case for why they should support your organization. Clearly state what your organization does and why it’s important. Be specific about the difference you’re making in the world and how the reader can help make that difference even bigger.

It’s also important to be clear about how the reader can help. Tell them exactly what you’re asking them to do, whether it’s making a donation, signing up for your email list, or attending an event. The clearer you are about what you’re asking, the more likely you are to get the response you’re looking for.

And don’t forget to say thank you! A sincere expression of gratitude will show the reader that their support is appreciated and make them more likely to do it again in the future.

5. Use a strong call-to-action.

End with a bang—not a whimper. After making your case and asking for support, make sure to end your letter on a strong note that leaves the reader feeling motivated and inspired. This is not the time to let your writing become dull or convoluted—keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

Your call to action should be clear and specific. Whether you’re asking for donors to make a financial contribution or volunteer their time, make sure your language reflects this. For example, if you’re looking for volunteers, use phrases like “give back” or “make a difference.” And if you’re asking for money, be sure to specify how the funds will be used.


How to Design Effective Nonprofit Direct Mail Creative

Fundraisers have to be strategic when it comes to designing their direct mail fundraising campaigns. The small details can make a big difference in whether or not your fundraising campaign is successful. In this section, we’ll go over some of the key design elements that you should keep in mind when creating your next nonprofit direct mail campaign.

1. Use emotional photos.

One of the most important elements of your direct mail piece is the imagery that you use. You want to choose photos that will pull at the heartstrings of your donors and inspire them to take action. Avoid using stock photos whenever possible. Instead, use real photos that showcase the work that your organization does. If you don’t have any high-quality photos of your own, reach out to a professional photographer who can help you capture the essence of your work.

2. Use a catchy outer envelope.

The outer envelope of your direct mail piece is just as important as the contents inside. After all, it’s the first thing that prospective donors will see when they receive your mailing. Make sure that your outer envelope is eye-catching and includes a clear call to action. You also want to avoid using any “junk mail” language such as “time sensitive” or “open immediately.” This will only lead potential donors to toss your mailing into the trash without even opening it.

3. Use unusual text formatting.

When you’re creating the text for your direct mail piece, don’t be afraid to experiment with different font sizes and styles. You want your text to be easy to read, but you also want it to stand out from all of the other marketing materials that potential donors are bombarded with on a daily basis. Using bold or italicized fonts for key phrases can help grab attention and ensure that your message is remembered long after the direct mail piece has been discarded. Ellipses, indents, handwritten notes all add to keeping the reader’s eyes moving down the page and catching the important parts of your message to drive up the response rate.

4. Use a personal touch.

Direct mail pieces that feel like they were written just for the recipient are more likely to be opened and read than those that feel mass-produced and impersonal. Take the time to personalize each direct mail piece as much as possible, including adding a handwritten note or signature whenever possible. This will give your mailing that extra personal touch that can make all the difference to a supporter in whether or not it’s successful.

5. Response Device

There are several elements to consider when designing your direct mail piece, but one of the most important is the response device. The response device is the part of the mailer that donors use to respond to your solicitation. It should be designed in such a way that it is easy to use and clearly visible. It should also be placed in a location that is easily accessible.

One way to make your response device more effective is to include a QR code. QR codes are becoming increasingly popular and are a great way to drive donors to your donation page. You can also include a link to your donation page in the response device. This will allow donors who may not have a QR code reader on their phone to still be able to donate easily.

Another important element to consider is the tone of your solicitation. Your solicitation should be clear and concise, and it should convey a sense of urgency. Don’t be afraid to ask for a specific amount – studies have shown that donors are more likely to give when they are asked for a specific amount than when they are asked for a general donation. Most response devices include a gift matrix of several pre-filled in donation options. The gift matrix is personalized to the donor’s level of giving. And finally, be sure to thank your donors for their support! A simple “thank you” can go a long way in showing your appreciation for their generosity.


How to Choose the Right Format for Your Nonprofit Direct Mail Campaign

There are a lot of factors to consider when planning a direct mail campaign for your nonprofit. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right format for your mailer. In this section, we’ll break down the different types of formats and offer some tips on how to choose the right one for your needs.

Questions to Ask to Choose the Right Direct Mail Format for Direct Mail Marketing

1. Who is your audience?

The first step in choosing the right format for your campaign is to think about who you are trying to reach. Are you trying to connect with recent donors? Lapsed donors? Or are you trying to attract entirely new supporters to your cause? Your answer to this question will help determine what type of mailing will work best for you.

2. What is your message?

The second factor to consider is what kind of message you want to send with your direct mail campaign. Are you looking to cultivate a stronger relationship with your donors? Or are you simply trying to increase Awareness of your organization’s work? Once again, your answer here will help point you in the right direction when it comes to format.

3. What is your budget?

The third and final factor to consider is your budget for the campaign. Depending on the size and scope of your mailing, direct mail can be quite expensive—so it’s important to have a clear idea of how much money you’re willing (and able) to spend before you get started. Once you’ve taken all three of these factors into consideration, you should have a good sense of which format will work best for your nonprofit’s next direct mail campaign.

Four Types of Direct Mail Pieces

There are four main types of formats for direct mail: postcards, letters, brochures, and catalogs. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the one that best fits your organization’s needs. Here’s a closer look at each type of format:

Postcards: Postcards are an excellent choice for direct mail campaigns because they’re affordable and easy to produce. However, postcards have limited space for messaging, so they’re not a good choice if you have a lot of information to communicate. Additionally, postcards can be easily ignored by recipients since they don’t require any effort to open. A direct mail postcard is excellent for getting information from donors, like updating contact information or credit cards, or for reminding donors of a campaign.

Letters: Letters are a more traditional type of direct mailer, and they offer more space for messaging than postcards. Letters can be personalize with a handwritten signature or a printed letterhead, which can help increase their perceived importance. However, letters can be expensive to produce and require more time to prepare than other types of mailers. Additionally, letters can be easily overlooked by recipients since they come in envelopes that need to be opened. Most fundraising appeals are sent as letters. Letters are also used for donor prospecting mail – sending letters to a rented mailing list to acquire new donors.

Brochures: Brochures offer a middle ground between postcards and letters in terms of messaging space and perceived importance. Brochures can be personalized with a company logo or tagline, but they don’t require as much space as letters. Brochures can also be fairly easy and inexpensive to produce depending on the design and printing options you choose.

Catalogs: Catalogs offer the most space for messaging of all the direct mail formats, but they’re also the most expensive and time-consuming to produce. Catalogs are usually reserved for organizations with large budgets and complex products or services to sell. Many organizations use the catalog format to send out a holiday gift catalog – gifts donors can provide to beneficiaries such as a goat, chicken, or a year’s tuition. Additionally, many nonprofits produce an annual report in a catalog format.

When choosing the right format for your next direct mail campaign, it’s important to consider your budget, timeline, and objectives. Postcards are an excellent choice for direct mail campaigns because they’re affordable and easy to produce. However, postcards have limited space for messaging, so they’re not a good choice if you have a lot of information to communicate. Additionally, postcards can be easily ignored by recipients since they don’t require any effort to open. If you have more time and budget to invest in your direct mail campaign, consider a letter or brochure format instead. Letter offer more space for messaging than postcards while brochures offer a middle ground between postcards and letters in terms of messaging space and perceived importance. Whatever format you choose, make sure it aligns with your overall marketing goals.


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