Direct Mail

How to Create an Effective, Low-Tech, Direct Mail Campaign to Drive Donations

At the beginning of this booklet, we mentioned that recent studies have shown that there is a basic foundation that every business needs to establish before they start getting too fancy, creative or complicated with their marketing strategy.

You could picture the marketing strategy for most organizations like a train.  The engine of the train that fuels the most basic functions of your marketing efforts is 3 fold:

  1. A high converting website,
  2. Regular email outreach
  3. Quality printed literature or display ads.

Without these basic 3 in place, most NPOS’s find that other media types are far less effective.  (Not that they are not effective, just that they are less effective)

Once print, web and email are in place, then you can fuel your efforts though content marketing.  To make it simple, you use a research tool like to discover what people are typing into search engines.  They you add that content to your site and also use your social media page to raise awareness that you have the answers to these questions or searches.  As content is added and you are seen as an expert, then social media, podcasts, newspaper columns, and broadcast become a lot more effective.

In this section, I want to focus on the print aspect of your digital fundraising machine.

Every Non Profit Requires Continual Visibility with Potential Donors

Huge nonprofits like Compassion International, United Way and Red Cross have the budgets to buy huge spreads in national glossy magazines.  That probably is not you so let’s recap a few principles about non-profit fundraising we previously shared:

  • Smaller nonprofits with local services often have good luck with local neighborhood or community magazine – especially if they are able to get regular featured article written about them in the magazines.
  • Local networking groups (like BNI or the Chamber of Commerce) often have discounted of free memberships.  If you can get a group of business people to adopt your NPO, it can be a source of continual support.

Still, these options can be expensive or time consuming and not be a reality for a small NPO.  (Like the kind of npo that is one people on the basement of a church) So, if you are just getting started, let me talk a little bit about high-touch, low-tech postcard marketing.  Postcards can be a really simple and effective way of driving traffic to your website.  Once they are on your website, then you can go into greater detail about your unique services to the community.

Postcards?  Seriously?

There are a few reasons why you still get glossy postcards and greeting cards in the mail during this digital age:

  1. Postcards are impossible to avoid.  They make an impression as soon as people see them.  Even if they go right in the trash, they make an impression the entire way to the trashcan.  A well-designed piece on thick glossy paper can feel really valuable and will often sit on a desk or a countertop for a long period of time making impressions the entire time it is there.
  2. Glossy postcards help your nonprofit look serious and established.  Digital marketing is also really effective, but it can also feel temporary and impersonal.  Postcards appear to take more labor and effort to deliver so people will often take them more seriously.
  3. Postcards are extremely targeted. 
    1. You can send a mailer to just your former donor list and in doing so, you know that your marketing to red-hot prospects.
    2. Some greeting card service will allow you to automatically send cards to people on their birthday and other significant occasions.  Consider
    3. You can target a neighborhood through Every Door Direct mail (EDDM) and you know that everyone in that key neighborhood is going to see your piece.  Go to for information.  Ablaze Media ( and other local ad agencies will offer 100% done for you EDDM services.
    4. You can acquire a list through your local chamber of commerce or a lead service that is put together for your demographic.,,  and are all good sources for cold leads.  Some public libraries also have lead list services that they offer for free.
    5. In all these cases, it is very specific in its target

Best Practices for Cost-effective Postcard Promotion

Glossy, color postcards are relatively inexpensive to produce and relatively inexpensive to deliver.  Research has shown that direct mail is most effective when it follows these guidelines:

  1. Use a headline that is 7 words or less.  Tell them the rest of your story on your website.
  2. Use a single, eye-catching photo or just a couple well-chosen pictures.  Less is more!  Front facing, smiling women are always a safe bet.  White space (or empty space) is your friend and will help with readability.  Avoid putting on a long laundry lists of the services your provide.  Remember that donor are looking for stories of changed lives, a vision for a better furutre and/or people they know, like and trust.
  3. Use a minimal amount or text and make a call to action very clear.  People need to know what you are offering or what you’re asking them to do when they get the mailer
  4. Make it donor focused.  Show and describe the user experience rather than talk about your company.
  5. Use a high-quality paper.  People are less likely to throwaway a postcard that feels substantial

To be honest, newsletters are still far more effective for non-profit fundraising, and we’ll talk about those later.  A lot of newer non-profits can’t afford the expense of newsletters.  So, until you can afford the time, energy and postage of a newsletter with a response card and a return envelope, then postcards are the next best thing.

Using these techniques will help your nonprofit organization stand out and to grab your potential donor’s attention while not breaking the bank.

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