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How Your Nonprofit Can Utilize Direct Mail to Enhance Your Fundraising Program

November 29, 2023 by FSSI Splash

Nonprofit organizations play a crucial role in addressing societal issues and making a positive impact on communities. To continue their valuable work, these organizations often rely on fundraising initiatives. While digital marketing and online donations have gained significant attention in recent years, one powerful tool that nonprofits should not overlook is direct mail. In this article, we will explore how your nonprofit can harness the potential of direct mail to improve your fundraising program.

The Power of Direct Mail in Fundraising

Direct mail, often referred to as traditional or snail mail, offers a range of unique advantages for your nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts. Its tangible nature and capacity for personalization enable a deeper connection with donors, while the emotional impact of compelling storytelling and testimonials often leads to increased engagement and contributions. Additionally, direct mail allows for precise targeting, ensuring that tailored messages reach different donor segments. It benefits from heightened visibility as physical materials tend to be more frequently noticed and opened.

The multi-sensory experience of touching and feeling the content adds to its memorability, and the minimal competition in physical mailboxes makes it a standout channel. Furthermore, it bridges the gap between online and offline donor engagement, offering a seamless transition. Direct mail materials often linger in homes, serving as enduring reminders of your nonprofit’s mission, maintaining donor engagement and support.

Understanding the Nonprofit Sector

Before delving into the specifics of direct mail fundraising, it’s essential to understand the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits rely on the generosity of donors to support their initiatives. These organizations have a compelling mission and vision, but they must also effectively convey their message to potential supporters.

Fundraising stands at the heart of the nonprofit sector, playing a pivotal role in sustaining and amplifying its impact. The importance of fundraising lies in its ability to generate the financial resources necessary to support the missions and initiatives of nonprofit organizations. It enables these entities to address societal issues, provide essential services, and make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities. Fundraising is the lifeblood that empowers nonprofits to drive social change, tackle challenges, and contribute to a better world. It bridges the gap between vision and action, making it an indispensable aspect of the nonprofit sector’s work.

Below are some of the key elements and concerns for a nonprofit looking to start a direct mail fundraising outreach campaign or improve upon an existing one. We will also cover the crucial aspects of developing an effective fundraising program.

Does Direct Mail Work for Nonprofits?

One of the most common questions among nonprofit organizations is whether direct mail fundraising actually works. The answer is a resounding “yes.” Direct mail remains a viable and influential tool for nonprofits. Its tangible, personal touch can evoke emotions and prompt individuals to take action in support of a cause they believe in.

What Is the Response Rate for Nonprofit Direct Mail?

The response rate for nonprofit direct mail campaigns can vary based on various factors, including the quality of the mailing list, the appeal of the content and the call to action. However, on average, the response rate hovers around 4.9%, making it a viable and effective fundraising strategy.

volunteers writing a poster that says nonprofit

Leverage the Benefits of Direct Mail in Your Fundraising Program

  1. Tangibility and Personalization
  2. Emotional Impact
  3. Targeted Outreach
  4. Increased Visibility
  5. A Multi-Sensory Experience
  6. Minimal Competition
  7. Offline Donor Engagement
  8. Longevity

Tangibility and Personalization

Direct mail provides a tangible and personal touch that digital communication often lacks. Donors receive physical materials they can hold in their hands, creating a sense of connection to the cause. Personalization is key in direct mail, as you can address donors by name and tailor the content to their interests and history with your organization. Read One Direct Mail Strategy Modern Nonprofits Use to Reach More Donors to see how personalization is used to drive campaign results.

Emotional Impact

Direct mail has the potential to evoke strong emotional responses. Through compelling storytelling, moving images, and heartfelt testimonials, your nonprofit can connect with donors on a deep, emotional level. This emotional impact often leads to higher engagement and increased donations. Check out How to Write a Compelling Fundraising Appeals Letter to learn an effective approach to writing impactful appeals letters.

Targeted Outreach

Direct mail allows for highly targeted outreach. You can segment your donor base and send specific messages to different groups based on their preferences and giving history. This personalized approach increases the likelihood of donors responding positively to the appeal.

Increased Visibility

In an age where digital communication can easily be overlooked, physical mail stands out. Direct mail materials are more likely to be noticed and opened, ensuring that your message reaches the intended recipients. This increased visibility can be a significant advantage in fundraising.

A Multi-Sensory Experience

Direct mail engages multiple senses. Recipients not only see the content but also feel the texture of the paper and even hear the rustling of the materials. This multi-sensory experience can leave a lasting impression and enhance the memorability of your message.

Minimal Competition

With many nonprofits focusing on digital channels, there is less competition in the mailbox. This means that your direct mail piece is more likely to capture the recipient’s attention and stand out from the crowd.

Offline Donor Engagement

Direct mail complements online efforts by bridging the gap between online and offline donor engagement. It provides an opportunity for donors to respond offline, such as by mailing back a donation check, creating a seamless transition from online to offline giving.


Direct mail materials often stay in the recipient’s home for a while. They can serve as a physical reminder of your organization’s mission and the impact of their support, keeping your cause top of mind.

multiple hands holding a heart

Crafting an Effective Direct Mail Campaign

Leveraging the benefits of direct mail for nonprofits is essential to craft compelling and impactful direct mail campaigns. With the power of tangible, emotional, and personalized connections, direct mail offers a unique avenue for engaging donors and garnering support. By understanding the advantages it brings, your nonprofit can strategically harness these qualities to create compelling campaigns that resonate deeply with your audience, drive donor engagement, and ultimately advance your fundraising efforts.

Here are the steps to creating effective direct mail outreach campaigns and how Splash can bring your direct mail strategy to fruition:

  1. Segmenting Your Donor Base: A critical step in direct mail fundraising is segmenting your donor base. Not all donors are the same, and tailoring your message to specific segments can significantly improve your results. Understand your donors’ motivations and preferences to create more personalized content. At Splash, we can help you get the right list for the right outreach. Speak with a direct marketing specialist today to learn more about the quality of our mailing list data.
  2. Creating Compelling Content: Content is king in direct mail campaigns. Craft compelling stories that resonate with your audience. Share success stories, testimonials and impactful statistics to make an emotional connection. Use storytelling to convey your mission’s importance. Splash has an in-house team of high-level marketing experts who can help you craft impactful narratives that drive interest to your cause.
  3. Designing Eye-Catching Materials: The design of your direct mail materials matters. An eye-catching layout, high-quality images and an engaging format can capture the recipient’s attention. Invest in professional design services to make a memorable impression. Splash has an in-house team of graphic designers who can help you create eye-catching mailers that donors respond to.
  4. Leveraging Data Analytics: Data analytics can be a game-changer when partnering with a direct mail fundraising company. Use data to track donor behavior, analyze response rates, and refine your strategies. This data-driven approach ensures that your campaigns evolve to become increasingly effective. Splash offers a multichannel direct mail marketing experience that uses data to help you generate highly targeted direct mail fundraising campaigns.
  5. Adhering to Compliance and Legal Considerations: Nonprofits must adhere to legal regulations for fundraising campaigns. Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements in your region, including disclosure obligations and donor rights, to avoid any legal issues. The FSSI Splash facilities are HIPAA compliant and pass yearly SOC2 certifications for their data handling and data security practices.
  6. Measuring the Impact: Measuring the impact of your direct mail campaigns is crucial. Track key performance indicators, such as response rates, conversion rates, and revenue generated. This data will guide your future fundraising efforts.
  7. Adding a Touch of Personalization in the Digital Age: In a world dominated by digital interactions, a personal touch can set your nonprofit apart. Handwritten notes or personalized messages can create a deep connection with donors. Addressing your donors by name or including previous donations can make your supporters feel valued and appreciated – and show that you see them as individuals.
  8. Building Lasting Relationships: Fundraising is not a one-time transaction; it’s about building lasting relationships with your donors. Regularly update your supporters on your progress, express gratitude, and keep them engaged with your mission.

Challenges and Pitfalls to Avoid in an Effective Fundraising Program

While direct mail can be a potent tool in fundraising, there are challenges and pitfalls to be aware of. High printing and postage costs, low response rates and the risk of donor message fatigue are common hurdles. To ensure an effective direct mail fundraising program, consider these challenges and pitfalls carefully and work on strategies to overcome them. This includes optimizing your mailing lists, crafting compelling content and regularly refreshing your creative approach to maintain donor engagement and response rates. By addressing these challenges, you can make the most of your direct mail initiatives and maximize your fundraising potential.

Nonprofit fundraising strategies continue to evolve. Explore emerging trends and technologies, such as augmented reality and interactive mailers, to keep your campaigns fresh and engaging.

Utilizing USPS Direct Mail Programs and Incentives

In 2022, Marketing Mail experienced a modest uptick, nearly reaching pre-pandemic levels. By the close of the fiscal year on September 30, 2022, the volume within this category saw a 1.4% increase, totaling 67.1 billion pieces, while revenue witnessed a significant uptick of 9.7%, surpassing the $16 billion mark. Meanwhile, the landscape for package delivery, which had seen sustained growth in recent years, partially attributed to the pandemic, witnessed a slight decline. Conversely, First Class mail revenue exhibited a slight uptick, reaching $24.04 billion, even as its overall volume continued its ongoing, gradual decline.

Here are some of the ways Splash can help you work better with the USPS:

  • Leverage pre-sort, and automation discounted rates for your larger volume campaigns
  • Partner with a direct mail printing vendor like Splash to handle all processing and mailing of the marketing materials for you.
  • Optimize the size of your mailers or ensure you use the right envelope for the right campaign.

2023/2024 USPS Promotions and Incentives

Learn about the USPS postal promotions and incentives available to you – you can view the details at https://postalpro.usps.com/promotions. Taking advantage of these discounts and incentives play a pivotal role in fostering innovation and cost-effective mail strategies. These programs offer businesses the opportunity to unlock discounts by incorporating advanced technologies and creative approaches into their mail campaigns.

By leveraging these incentives, mailers are encouraged to think creatively and experiment with new marketing and printing techniques, ultimately leading to more engaging and financially rewarding mail initiatives. The USPS’s commitment to these promotions underscores its dedication to driving the evolution of the mailing industry while delivering added value to businesses and customers alike.

Here are the USPS direct mail programs and incentives for 2023 and 2024

  • Retargeting (5% discount)
  • Reply Mail IMBA (3-6% discount)
  • Informed Delivery (4% discount, 0.5% incentive for eDoc Postage Statement Submitters)
  • Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Engagement (5% discount)
  • Personalized Color Transpromo (3-4% discount)
  • Emerging and Advanced Technology (including mobile shopping) (3-4% discount)

2023 USPS Direct Mail Programs and Incentives for First Class and Marketing Mail

2024 USPS Direct Mail Programs and Incentives for First Class and Marketing Mail

Commonly Asked Questions About Nonprofit Direct Mail Fundraising

Does direct mail work for nonprofits?

Direct mail is particularly effective in nonprofit fundraising due to its capacity to establish a personal and emotional connection with donors. The tangible nature of direct mail materials provides a physical link to the cause, making recipients feel more connected to the organization’s mission. By leveraging compelling storytelling, powerful visuals, and heartfelt testimonials, direct mail can elicit strong emotional responses, which often result in increased engagement and contributions. These factors, combined with the enduring visibility of direct mail materials and their ability to bridge the online-offline gap, make direct mail a potent tool in nonprofit fundraising.

What is the average return on investment (ROI) in nonprofit direct mail marketing?

Your nonprofits can achieve a high ROI through strategic direct mail outreach, effectively utilizing your resources. Direct mail has the highest ROI of any fundraising channel. According to an article by Nonprofit Pro, nonprofit direct mail can have a median ROI of 29% – way higher than paid search ads.

What are some nonprofit direct mail best practices?

Like we discussed earlier, nonprofit direct mail best practices revolve around the principles of effective segmentation, compelling content creation and captivating design. Start by segmenting your donor base to tailor messages to different groups, enhancing personalization and adding relevance. Crafting compelling content through storytelling, testimonials and impactful statistics is key to emotionally engaging recipients. Finally, invest in eye-catching design to ensure that your direct mail materials stand out and create a memorable impression. Following these best practices can significantly boost the success of direct mail campaigns in nonprofit fundraising.

What are the current nonprofit fundraising trends regarding direct mail?

Current trends in nonprofit fundraising indicate a growing integration of digital channels alongside traditional methods like direct mail. Online giving and crowdfunding have gained prominence, while social media platforms have become critical tools for reaching donors. Moreover, nonprofits are increasingly focusing on donor engagement and building lasting relationships, emphasizing transparency and regular updates on their initiatives. Sustainability and social impact have also become significant themes, with donors seeking organizations that align with their values. In summary, nonprofit fundraising trends reflect a shift towards digitalization, donor-centric approaches, and a heightened emphasis on values and impact.

What are some relevant fundraising statistics for nonprofits?

To appreciate the value of direct marketing in fundraising efforts, let’s examine some noteworthy statistics:

  • The Direct Marketing Association reported an average response rate of 4.9% for direct mail among nonprofits.
  • Nonprofits, on average, generate $5.60 for every $1 spent on direct mail fundraising, as per the Data & Marketing Association.
  • In a study by Blackbaud, it was revealed that 71% of nonprofit organizations used direct mail as a fundraising channel in 2021.
  • The DMA research shows a 9% average response rate for direct mail campaigns. In a recent JICMAIL report,” in Q2 of 2019…consumers engaged with 91% of all direct mail. By Q2 2020, this figure had soared to 96%.” So contrary to some views, direct mail is increasing in effectiveness.

DMA reports that as a direct result of receiving mail:

  • 92% have been driven to online or digital activity
  • 87% have been influenced to make online purchases
  • 86% have connected with a business online
  • 54% have engaged in social media
  • 43% have downloaded something

Your nonprofit organization can significantly enhance its fundraising programs through the strategic use of direct mail outreach. By following nonprofit direct mail best practices and staying updated on nonprofit fundraising trends, your organization can effectively convey your message and engage with donors. These impressive direct mail fundraising statistics underscore the value of this approach, demonstrating that it not only works but also provides an attractive return on investment. By partnering with nonprofit direct mail experts at Splash, direct mail can help your nonprofit establish lasting connections with your supporters, driving your missions forward.

a laptop computer showing results of a direct mail fundraising campaign

The Future of Direct Mail in Nonprofit Fundraising

The future of direct mail fundraising is marked by continuous evolution and innovation. While traditional mail remains a valuable avenue, emerging technologies are reshaping the landscape. Augmented reality, interactive mailers and data-driven personalization are expected to become more prominent. These advancements aim to enhance donor engagement and make direct mail even more interactive and impactful. Nonprofits that embrace these innovations while maintaining the core values of storytelling and personalization will find success in leveraging direct mail to reach new heights in their fundraising efforts.

At Splash, where we embrace technology and emerging trends, we help nonprofit organizations scale their direct mail outreach campaigns, drive awareness and, ultimately, generate donations. Let us help you create impactful fundraising donor engagement campaigns using digital marketing automation, personalization, highly targeted mailing lists, and visually stunning postcards and digital ads for maximum results. Contact us at 714.436.3300 to speak with a nonprofit marketing expert.