Now more than ever, effective fundraising is what your nonprofit depends on to survive. Your team likely spends countless hours planning events and campaigns in order to raise money for programs and projects that will further your cause.
All this fundraising definitely involves sending appeals to your donor base. Whether you’re sending general donation requests, sponsorship requests, or end-of-year-appeals, it’s important to amplify your fundraising campaigns as broadly and loudly as possible.
Deciding on the channels through which to send your appeals can be tough—there are so many ways to reach donors these days. The good news is that you don’t have to choose just one. In fact, you shouldn’t!
A multi-channel fundraising strategy, or one that targets donors through a variety of mediums, is most likely to reach the widest audience and result in maximum funds raised. This type of campaign uses a combination of various digital methods and/or direct mail.
At GivingMail, we’re experts on using direct mail appeals to help organizations big and small improve their fundraising numbers and achieve their goals. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the role of direct mail in a multi-channel fundraising strategy. We’ll answer the following questions:
What is multi-channel fundraising?
Why should I use a multi-channel approach?
What are the benefits of using direct mail in a multi-channel approach?
Leveraging the power of direct mail in a multi-channel strategy can lead to increased awareness of and engagement in your cause. Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in.
What is multi-channel fundraising?
Throughout the year, your nonprofit sends countless communications to supporters requesting contributions to your cause. These appeals may be general donation requests or appeals related to specific campaigns, projects, or initiatives. When you use more than one method to reach supporters, you’re executing a multi-channel campaign.
The 4 main ways to reach donors with fundraising appeals are:
When deciding which approaches to include in your multi-channel campaign, it’s important to learn from the past. Rely on the data in your donor management platform to determine where your donors are most active. If, for example, your audience historically has an exceptionally low text-to-give response rate, you might consider sticking to email, social media, and direct mail strategies. Regardless of which channels you pursue, you’ll also want to align your marketing strategy across all of them. This means having a clear goal, audience, and message to unify your fundraising campaign and have the most impact.
Further, a cohesive multi-channel strategy should also take into consideration the timing of the appeals and coordinate times to have the best result. Best practices and tips like the ones above can take your multi-channel approach to the next level.
Why you should use a multi-channel approach
The target audiences for each of the channels described above—email, social media, text, and direct mail—don’t overlap perfectly. The people most likely to open and respond to emails are not the same people who are likely to open and respond to direct mail, and so on.
For instance, younger people are more likely to see appeals on social media or text, while older audiences are more likely to open emails and direct mail.
Thus, when you use multiple channels to disseminate your appeals, you increase your fundraising capabilities by increasing the size of your audience. Every time you add a channel, you are exposing different potential donors to your campaign.
Beyond expanding audience size, multi-channel fundraising campaigns that reachthe same donor through more than one channel are more likely to drive that donor to conversion. For example, say Lisa used to volunteer with an animal shelter in college. Years later, she gets a Facebook message from the animal shelter asking for a donation to its latest project. She sees the message and means to respond, but has to run to a meeting.
When a letter arrives in her mailbox two days later, it jogs Lisa’s memory, and she’s reminded of the dedication of the organization and its firm commitment to its mission. She sends a check in the mail for their initiative.
The scenario above is backed up by statistics: campaigns that use direct mail plus a form of digital marketing yield a 28% higher conversion rate, meaning it’s to your advantage to approach your donors from different angles.
What are the benefits of direct mail in a multi-channel fundraising strategy?
You might be thinking, “Multiple channels makes sense. But why direct mail? Isn’t everyone online these days?” That’s a trap that a lot of organizations fall into—thinking they should aim all of their marketing efforts at digital channels. The truth is direct mail remains a tried-and-true, reliable method for raising funds for nonprofits across the country. Here are some of the benefits of including direct mail in your approach:
1. Direct mail has higher response rates
The ROI (return on investment) for direct mail appeals when compared to other marketing channels is high; response rates to direct mail appeals are roughly 10 times higher than any digital channel (including email).
While printing letters may seem like a big effort and expense, it’s beyond worth it to potentially capture all of those donations. Think about it: a donor in that margin could become one of your most loyal, longtime supporters.
2. Direct mail can target older audiences
Older donors are a highly sought-after and valuable demographic to pursue for fundraising. Baby Boomers represent the top source of revenue for nonprofits—they contribute a whopping 43% of all gifts made by individuals. Older donors have had years to build their careers and make money, making them good sources of support for charitable organizations.
Further, out of the 72% of people aged 55-75 who donate to charitable organizations, 19% of them prefer to give via direct mail. That’s a significant portion of a high-value demographic that you’d be missing out on if you didn’t include direct mail appeals in your multi-channel fundraising strategy.
If you find that your data shows you have room to improve in this demographic, direct mail appeals could be the answer.
3. Direct mail is more tangible and memorable
Sure, emails are visible on your screen, but so is every other digital ad you’re bombarded with every day. Many people can agree that an email just isn’t the same as holding a letter in your hand. Hard-copy fundraising letters have more impact because your audience can actually feel your request. After all, you’re engaging with your audience in their own homes, and that is pretty much as personal as it gets!
In addition to being tangible, letters are a great platform for memorable appeal. Because fundraising letters are usually 1-2 pages long, they offer plenty of room to tell a story and make an impact. The most effective letters catch your audience’s attention with an anecdote or emotional appeal. Then, they follow up with a request for a contribution.
4. Direct mail allows for personalization
Beyond telling a story in your fundraising appeals, personalizing your fundraising letters is a critical component of their success. It’s difficult to find “Dear friend” or “Dear supporter” charming—donors are much more likely to pay attention to and respond to an appeal that at least uses their name.
Personalizing your letters with your donors’ names works in combination with the physical presence of the letter. Combined, they make a letter feel much more personal than an email or a text.
It’s important to consider other ways you can personalize your direct mail appeals. Using your nonprofit’s CRM, you can segment your donor base into groups dependent on factors like
Previous engagement history.
Doing so allows you to send customized letters to each group that reference your knowledge of the donors’ profile. This shows donors you went to the effort to find out a little about them before asking for a donation, which goes a long way in building relationships with them.
When you’re strategizing for your next fundraising campaign, keep in mind the importance of spreading a wide net and reaching the most potential donors. While no one channel has a 100% response rate, a combination of channels will get you closer to maximum participation.
And, when it’s time to select channels for your multi-channel fundraising strategy, don’t forget about direct mail. Sure, online donations are common today, but direct mail remains exceedingly useful because of the high response rate, the personal nature of physical letters, and the valuable target audience. Good luck!
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.