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How to use direct mail to encourage online donations

How many direct mail campaigns do you plan a year? One for year-end giving campaigns? One each quarter?

No matter the number of mailings you send out a year, think of your offline direct mail campaigns as extensions of your digital channels. This holistic approach provides more giving opportunities to your donors and makes it easy for them.

Your donors want to give online

Many of your donors, no matter the generation, will give online (and are motivated to do so by online communication tactics, not to say they can’t be motivated by direct mail, too!). In the 2018 Global Trends Giving Report, social media was actually the number one channel to motivate both Millennials and Generation X to give (39% and 33% respectively) while email was the number one channel for Baby Boomers (coming in at 33%).

Equally important, however, is the effects of direct mail for these generations: 50% of both Millennials and Gen Xers say they’ve given online in response to direct mail with Boomers coming in behind them at 26% giving online due to a piece they received in the mail.

So, how do you merge the two?

While you may not have the ability (or desire) to discontinue direct mail campaigns anytime soon, there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of online donations through these campaigns. The key is around ease, access and communication. Consider the following:

Use email as support.

Once your direct mail pieces hit, schedule follow-up emails to be opened a week after. In that email, provide direct links to your online giving landing page or campaign page of your website as a quick and easy way for donors to give. This moves your mission to top-of-mind in the event that they misplaced or (gasp!) threw away the original mailing.

Schedule follow-up social media posts.

Even if not everyone on your social channels received the direct mail piece, thinking in a true “campaign” mindset allows you to create bite-sized pieces of content around the campaign. Encourage those who see it to share with their networks and always include a link for how to give direct online.

Include a steps-to-give area in your letter.

While many direct mail campaigns come with an envelope to return with your supporters’ donations, include a section in your mailing with a 1-2-3 process of how to save a stamp and give online. Keep your links short so they are easy to type into a browser. Better yet? Use a text to donate phone number that donors can opt-in to so they are directed immediately to a mobile giving page.

Tell a story.

As you likely already do, share stories from those who have been positively affected by your organization and how your donors are the reason for those heartfelt stories. Start the story in your mailing and encourage people to “view the rest online” via a link, QR code or special password that will lead them to an online video, campaign landing page, etc. Make it interactive. Create suspense and curiosity.

Provide a special offer.

Host a matching week or a special gift/offer to those who give online as a way to show them that it’s not only easy but that they can stretch their dollar further in a given week if they take you up on your online giving challenge.

Additional themes to consider encouraging donors to give online through your direct mail campaigns include talking about support of your organization “going green” and pointing out that by joining your online networks, choosing email over snail mail or giving online is a way to not only support your cause by protecting the environmental footprint as well.

Knowing what inspires your donors—not just from a storyline or cause standpoint, but from a communication standpoint—will help you in your direct mail strategy. Include online giving information and links in all your printed materials as a way to cross promote and let them know that you are here to make the process easy and stress-free. They will thank you for it!

For more information on just how you can motivate your donors to give, check out our online fundraising: 2018 in review report.


Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald is the President and Founder of 4aGoodCause, the fundraising CRM that makes recurring, monthly giving a breeze for small nonprofits.

For over 25 years, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves, building online solutions that make a difference in the world. He’s helped raise millions of dollars online for small nonprofits across the country. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn.

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