'Making a Connection' Stands Out as a Key Direct Mail Trend for Nonprofits

Credit: Pixabay by viarami

According to Giving USA, despite the pandemic, 2020 saw a record-breaking year for contributions to the nonprofit industry, with more than $400 billion donated. The average nonprofit donor made 2.03 gifts and contributed an average of $167 per donation, slightly lower than the average gift from an individual donor in 2019.

“This data is pretty remarkable because the increase was driven by more people giving rather than people giving more, and that’s the first time in a long time that we’ve seen that,” said Alicia Lifrak, the EVP of the Gabriel Group, who shared this data during the 30-minute BRAND United Webinar “Tips and Trends for Better Nonprofit Marketing.

Strategic Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

During the event, Lifrak emphasized marketing trends that nonprofits should focus on. While Lifrak joked she could talk all day about trends that nonprofits should pay attention to, she whittled it down to three key trends:

  1. Multichannel Approach: Defined Donor Journey
    With the increase of digital donations in 2020, it’s not out of the question that a nonprofit would assume that it should move all its money into digital fundraising. Still, Lifrak warned that might not be the best decision, “Your donors are savvy consumers in every respect for the rest of the world. They expect their nonprofit organizations to communicate with them in equally clever fashions.”
  2. Storytelling: Making the Connection
    As we know, storytelling is not new. However, Lifrak emphasized that storytelling is more important now than it’s ever been. “Stories are really what creates empathy for the work that your organization does. They work with commonality and highlight things that we can all share or relate to,” she said. Lifrak explained that even though the issues nonprofits aim to resolve can often be dark, she suggested that it’s most effective to balance out the dark with positivity. To further affirm this, Lifrak used a case study from God’s Pantry Food Bank in Kentucky, which raised three times its goal of $62,500. Instead of using sad images to depict faces of hunger, the campaign used images of smiling faces that really resonated with donors.
  3. Planned Giving & Bequests
    Lifrak shared a recent report from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that predicts a 4.1% increase in giving in 2021 and a 5.7% increase spike in 2022. In addition, giving from estates is projected to increase by 1.1% in 2021 and increase by 12% in 2022. “Being certain that your organization has a strategy in place to take advantage of this could not be more timely,” Lifrak said.

She concluded by summarizing her points into three key takeaways:

  1. Meet donors where they are with a multichannel approach
  2. Tell your story and make it personal
  3. Don’t leave money on the table

“Some of your best planned giving prospects are probably right under your nose,” she said, “so start utilizing effective tools to start building that engagement.”

Direct Mail is Not Dead

Following Lifrak, Summer Gould, president of Eye/Comm Inc., discussed how to create better nonprofit fundraising through direct mail and how direct mail can increase response rates.

“With how crazy the last year has been, it’s more important than ever to get the most out of your direct mail fundraising. With economic hard times, nonprofits have more people to serve and are getting less donated funds,” she said.

To start, Gould echoed Lifrak’s sentiments on the importance of storytelling, “They are the key driver of response. You need to connect with your donors and prospects through stories that tug at the heart.”

You’ve Got the Story … Now What?

Gould broke it down into five simple objectives:

  1. Clean your donor data
    Studies have found on average that up to 20% of records in a typical house file are undeliverable. So, to help nonprofits better avoid obsolete data, Gould suggested a few data hygiene tools like CASS certified address validation, NCOA, deceased suppression, and deduping.
  2. Focus on your prospects
    Once your donor list is clean, Gould says it’s time to turn your attention to your prospects. Gould recognizes that finding a solid list of prospects can be tough, so she suggested profiling your current donor list through new market segmentation tools that will allow you to profile the unique characteristics of your best donors so you can identify and target new prospects. Gould also suggested trading lists with other nonprofits, as well as utilizing targeting list tools and customizing your own list for your specific cause.
  3. Design and format
    Gould broke down the different design components that nonprofits should be utilizing. “A standard letter format is great because what really matters is what you’re saying,” Gould said. To get the most out of your design and format, Gould suggested using an 8×14″ sheet of paper with the bottom portion personalized and ready to be torn off by the reader to donate. Gould also emphasized the use of lift notes, reply envelopes, and outer envelopes.
  4. Integration with digital
    While her focus is direct mail, Gould explained the benefits of collaborating with digital formats to enhance a mail piece using tools like USPS’s Informed Delivery. Gould also suggested using augmented reality and videos by providing a link, or using QR codes so a mail piece can come to life when a donor scans it. She also touched on the use of Google ads and social media campaigns that go in conjunction with mail pieces, saying it will lead to increased response rates.
  5. How to Safely use Raffle Tickets
    For her last point, Gould explained how to properly send raffle tickets so that nonprofits don’t get in trouble for violating the strict regulations USPS has in place. Gould suggested using wording like “suggested donation” or “no donation required to enter,” to avoid any trouble. “Every ticket needs to have that statement. There are no exceptions to this rule,” she said.

To view the full webinar, register to watch on BRAND United. To watch past webinars, or to register for one of our upcoming events, visit the webinar section on BRAND United.