Connecting with Donors in 2021: How Direct Mail Can Deepen Existing Relationships and Increase Donations

Connecting with Donors in 2021: How Direct Mail Can Deepen Existing Relationships and Increase Donations

Digital marketing is so fast-paced and fleeting that before you can blink, you’re signed up for a new subscription service while filling out a personality survey. Breathe, and you’ll miss the new trend. It’s too much. Charitable organizations are unfortunately missing the opportunity to thoroughly express what they deeply care about, truly stand for, and how they’re adequately affecting change. Let’s reimagine how changemakers in the social sector  can engage with the world through deepened connections with promising supporters.

 Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the average non-profit organization (NPO) donor retention rate was 45.5%, according to the 2018 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report. However, according to Professor Adrian Sargeant, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University, that number has severely dropped.

 “The donor retention landscape is actually lousy at the moment and is going on all accounts, from bad to worse,” he told Bloomerang, a company that aids nonprofit organizations to solidify  their supporter base. The latest round of AFP data that came out was made for very depressing reading. We’re continuing to lose donors at a pretty alarming rate.”

 Enhancing communication with direct mail, inclusive of a productive donation marketing campaign, may be the solution the social sector needs. The question is, is it worth it for nonprofit organizations to seek creative means of marketing to boost visibility and deepen their relationship with donors, during the pandemic? Absolutely! 

With a well-thought-out donor marketing strategy and a multifaceted approach that builds an organic and intentional relationship,  supporter loyalty is  strengthened.Creating a connection– or perhaps a reconnection– with direct mail is quintessential. It requires personally engaging donors in a plethora of ways other than making an ask.

 Simply put, social media cannot be the only means in which NPOs market and engage with their constituency. Besides, to be real, the digital marketing industry is completely submerged in oversaturation anyway.  According to Forbes, on average, Americans see 4,000 to 8,000 ads every day. People are literally overcome with digital fatigue (mental exhaustion that stems directly from too many blue light screens eating away at our mental clarity). This is the perfect time to flex real life engagement with direct mail. People need a break. They need off-screen interaction. They need connection. True stewardship recognizes that everyone does not use social media. Given this oversaturation, increasing channels of communication to thank donors and keep them informed is a necessity. 

However, for those who do use social media, between tik tok tutorials, instagram reels, viral tweets and increasing ads, screen time is up, real life engagement is down and it’s difficult to disengage from the interweb’s constant dopamine hits. In a world so online-heavy, a chance to intimately connect with a brand would give your donors more content to snap for their digital lives–a win for all.    . 

However, Direct mail is an efficient way to tell your brand’s story creatively, punctually, and personally. 

Here’s how you can build deep and lasting relationships with your donors via direct mail:

Expand Your Communication

 Direct mail is an invaluable way to raise enthusiasm and increase engagement. The goal is to have your audience respond with excitement and further the conversation that you’ve started. How many times have you checked in with friends and loved ones during the pandemic, whether  to say hi or share a casual anecdote? Imagine creating this frequency and level of intimacy with donors while using direct mail to make it happen.


Deliver a Personalized Experience

 Targeted content is a must, yet oftentimes it feels like a gift. Think back to the times in which you received  a birthday card,, a handwritten note, or  a personalized thank you letter. Felt good, didn’t it? As disengaged as we are from real life happenings, let’s face it: humans are meant to interact. It’s in our nature. That hit of oxytocin that we receive from something personal, tangible and specifically meant for us goes a very long way. On the same token, . leveraging personalization through direct mail as a way to authentically engage,  also lends to  enhanced  donor appreciation. Between direct mail and email, “direct mail marketing garners a 37% higher response rate than email,” according to Inkit, a company that helps professional teams engage with customers. In fact, up to 90% of direct mail actually gets opened, while about 20% of email gets opened. This can be assumed that it’s  because direct mail has a stronger emotional pull than digital ads, resulting in stronger memorability even one week later. Direct mail is vetted and tested as a compelling yet effective way to strengthen donor communication. Find ways to honor what makes your donors special and they will return the gesture ten fold.

 Select the Optimal Timing to Schedule Your Next Campaign

 Consider timing when designing your direct mail strategy. Timeliness with a touch of creativity increases stewardship and donor retention. When it comes to direct mail, timing plays an influential role in campaign response rates and valuation. How often will you send mailers and for what occasions? Consider inciting a sense of urgency by sharing a “limited offer.” Saying hello or thank you is meaningful, nevertheless, when and how you say it makes the difference between a one-time supporter or an engaged donor.

 Track & Measure Success

 A savvy marketing strategy analyzes data (big and small). It’s beneficial to know what components of your direct mail campaign are more or less productive. Simple yet effective campaign measuring tools can yield the greatest response for the lowest cost. Track data and use it to enhance the next round of direct mail. Ultimately, taking the vital step to identify and optimize how your direct mail campaign is performing, shares how well the organization is executing their marketing strategies. There is no better time to improve processes and deeply connect with your constituency than the present. 

Increase the Gratitude

Demonstrate donor generosity with intention. Segment your donors, meditate on the possibilities, and highlight what would be of value to each group. A gift is a great way to acknowledge your supporters. To drive appreciation like no other, consider an invitation to your next digital exhibition, a brand-partnership coupon, or a small token of gratitude. Learning the love language of your donors is a definite sweet spot.

As organizations continue to add value, donors trust and share more information about their lives, interests and dreams. In this way, organizations can better serve donor interests while being agents of change. Today’s market calls for NPOs and charitable organizations to increase innovation and engage donors while keeping costs at a minimum. Cutting through the many layers of digital noise is daunting yet possible, as nonprofits/charities and private schools are leveraging best practices when it comes to donor marketing.

A great overall marketing strategy that includes the direct mail method has the potential to create wonder for donors and organizations alike. It’s a win-win.

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