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Direct Response

Growing Your Nonprofit Clients' Direct Mail Marketing Through Fundraising


When used well, direct mail marketing can be among the most powerful fundraising tools at the disposal of nonprofits and other donation-based enterprises. Wielded as a blunt instrument, on the other hand, it can reveal a lack of insight into who your client’s target donor demographic is, and what their behaviors and preferences are — ultimately leading to lack of engagement or reduced donations. In spite of the abundance of alternative methods to solicit donations, direct mail remains “the driving force for funds,” according to NonProfit PRO. So for agencies that work with nonprofit clients, it’s important to include direct mail fundraising as part of the overall marketing strategy.

But the question you may be asking is, how can you grow your client’s direct mail marketing campaigns without falling prey to the traps of careless fundraising?

Here are four ways to maximize the development of direct mail campaigns for your clients.

1) Don't Paint With a Broad Brush

The most important thing an agency representing a nonprofit organization looking to make the most of a direct mail campaign can remember is that different donor groups have different needs — and at times, different channels of communication. Gathering data can help you understand how propensity to donate can impact actual donations. Even more basically, first and foremost: separating housefile — the list of people who have already donated — from prospecting.

“Every nonprofit (no matter how small) should be using direct mail to reach their housefile list,” writes Joe Garecht in The Fundraising Authority blog. “Even if it’s your first year in existence and you only have 18 donors, mail them a solicitation letter at least once this year.”

2) Honor Requests

Yet even with this baseline separation, differentiation on an even more detailed level is needed. Nothing will turn off a waffling donor faster than receiving correspondence when they specifically have requested not to. Honoring these requests is a key sign of valuing their contribution.

“If a donor asks to receive mail only once or twice a year, make sure this is done,” Valerie Kagan, president of VK Direct, tells NonProfitPRO. “In addition, send a letter notifying the donor that this request has been honored.”

2) Readability is King

When it comes to direct mail, time is of the essence: the more convoluted your correspondence is, the more opportunities there are to lose a donor to short attention spans or antipathy. Experts like Jeff Brooks, Creative Director at TrueSense Marketing, urge you to keep your requests simple and easy-to-read, with much of the vital information frontloaded.

“Make it your goal to write letters that hook readers, pull them in, and entice them to read every word. But understand that few donors will start with your first sentence and read to the end without skipping,” writes Brooks in the GuideStar blog. Others, like Tom Ahern, Donor Communications Head Coach at Bloomerang, suggest using the word “you” frequently to convey a sense of connection with the donor you are addressing.

4) Match Requests With Willingness

Your best chance at growth may involve understanding that, simply because a donor has a capacity to give up to a certain threshold doesn’t necessarily mean they are willing to. By asking for the wrong amounts, you could be turning off potentially reliable donors of your client or not making the most of their actual willingness to give.

By using a predictive software like ExactAsk, you can move small and medium-sized donors up the giving pyramid with personalized Ask amounts based on the hard data you have collected for your clients. Combined with a solid understanding of your client organization’s existing donors and their specific giving habits, you can watch your nonprofit’s lists flourish under a new direct mail campaign.

Interested in learning how new innovations such as ExactAsk can help improve the outcomes of your direct mail campaigns? Schedule a briefing today!