Does Direct Mail Still Pay for Nonprofit Organizations?

Nowadays, it seems much simpler to send out email requests for donations rather than go to the trouble of printing a direct mail piece. Not to mention that the cost is significantly cheaper. Or is it?

When you send out an email request for donations, you simply draft an email, maybe have your graphic designer add some graphics, and then send it off to your email list. The entire project takes very time and no money if you are using an internal email list.

A direct mail campaign takes a lot more effort and money. First, you have to design the mailing pieces, then have them printed, then have them inserted in an envelope, then put addresses on, then mail the campaign. The cost per piece can easily run a dollar or more, compared to almost nothing for an email.

But in this case, simply looking at ease and cost is not the best way to determine the effectiveness of a donation request campaign. In the end, the most important criteria is how much additional donation revenue your nonprofit organization gets from the campaign. So what do statistics tell us about the effectiveness of direct mail versus email?

The Cold Hard Facts

In a fairly recent study conducted in 2011 covering 15.6 million donors and $1.16 billion of donations, it was found that 79% of all donations came as a response to direct mail campaigns compared to 10% from email campaigns (11% came from other offline methods). Even when looking at new donors, where you might expect online methods to generate more response, 76% of new donors were responding to a direct mail campaign compared to 16% responding online (8% joined by other offline methods).

So what does this mean for a nonprofit organization trying to raise funds from donors? While email and other online methods of acquiring donors may be an important source of revenue and perhaps even an increasing source of revenue, direct mail campaigns still generate the majority of donations for most nonprofit organizations. So the trouble and cost of direct mail campaigns are probably well worth it. And in this day and age, when we are bombarded with hundreds of emails, our physical mailboxes often have far fewer pieces of mail than just a few years ago. So when you send your direct mail campaign, it is more likely to get noticed than another email.

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