The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Fundraising with Direct Mail: What Every Small Nonprofit Needs to Know

A solid development plan used to rise and set around direct mail, and while there are many new fundraising channels available today, direct mail can and should still be an important part of your plan. Here are seven steps to executing an effective direct plan campaign that’s also integrated into your overall communication and fundraising strategy.

  1. Begin with good data. Solid data management is the bedrock of effective direct mail. We all know how easy it is personalize content, so never start a letter “Dear friend.” People who receive your piece should feel like they are on a first-name basis with your organization. As best as you can, track relationships: Bob and Jane are married (Mr. & Mrs.), but Jane and Tom are mother and son (not Mr. and Mrs.). Try to capture birthdates so that a 5-year-old event participant doesn’t get an appeal.Data can also help you personalize what your piece says. For consistent givers, start by thanking them for their ongoing support. For those who have lapsed, make a compelling case for why they should come back. For those that have never given, draw them into your mission and let them know that even a small gift makes a big difference.


  1. Cut through the clutter with layered messaging. From emails and text messages to Facebook posts, we are constantly bombarded with information. That’s why it is important for you to develop a layered communication strategy to compliment your direct mail campaign. Here are a few ideas:
  • Build a campaign page on your website that mirrors the core message of your letter.
  • Shoot a brief, 2-minute video to share on social media.
  • Send an email that will arrive within a few days of the expected letter arrival.
  • Write a blog post that speaks to the same core message that is within your email appeal.
  • Plan social media posts in and around the letter timing, to lift the message.The days of a one-and-done letter being effective are gone. When you are sick of hearing the message, it will begin to penetrate your audience.


  1. Make a compelling case and cast donors as the heroes. It is one thing to ask for money and quite another to invite people to join you in making a real difference. Are you ‘selling to them’ in your letter or offering them an amazing opportunity to partner with you for change? Think about what your donors care about and use your letter as a place to explain what you are doing about it. And a good direct mail appeal will answer the questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “Why should I care?” for the donor.


  1. Keep it simple and be concise. People are scanners. When they open your letter, if it is a sea of black type with no ‘design,’ they’ll lay it down and never read it. Or, they’ll just scan the first sentence of a few paragraphs and miss your core message.Just like a good sauce needs to be boiled down, reduce your message to as few words as possible. That means edit, then edit again. Use short paragraphs and bullet points. And always include a call-out box or a P.S. that hits your main point, as these are always read first.


  1. Make it as easy as possible for them to reply. Include a self-addressed envelope with postage on it if you can. (A U.S. Postal Service indicia makes it easy and allows you to only pay for those that are returned.) Also, make it easy for them to give online by including a direct and memorable URL that goes directly to your donation page.


  1. Test and measure. After a campaign’s completed, take time to learn from it. Review your results, process what you’ve learned, and respond to feedback.Find out the percentage of people who responded and how many gave online as a direct response. This is easy to track if you have a branded donation page and have analytics on your website. If you don’t yet have these capabilities, then determine if you had an increase in online donations while your campaign was happening.

Need a donor management system or branded donation page to help you track your campaigns? Talk to us!

Other good questions to ask include:

  • What number of donors responded to each list?
  • What was the average gift size?
  • What did you spend on the production and mailing vs. the return received?
  1. Let them know you care about more than their wallets. A good direct mail campaign is part of a comprehensive communication strategy. Ensure you are communicating with your community year-round, sharing the successes made possible through their support. Invite donors and potential donors to participate in events, volunteer, receive your newsletter, or follow your blog. But you should still respect their wishes. Give them the opportunity to ‘opt out’ of communications they don’t want, while still receiving the ones they do.Direct mail still matters. Take the time to be strategic and intentional with your direct mail efforts and you will see return on your investment. Your community will grow and your fundraising results will increase.

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Share your thoughts!

Join the conversation to offer your insight and experience. Have a question? We’d love to hear it!



    • Leigh Reynolds

      Thanks Terry


    Most Respected Madam,

    Hope fine. Happy to go through your instructions 1 to 7 and accepting it. Even though as a penniless man I never racing against anyone or challenging all the DONORS impolitely. What will I gain? I am 64 years and balancing everything and cooperating with everyone. Did I throw any black title on your BOARD or DONORS? No! Being a DEAF I accidentally showed some disturbance at your last meeting conference. One new lady addressing me that I am firing the board then as THREAT soon and I forgot to record her name. She easily defeating a handicapped person and escaping away smartly. Also throwing me into warning list unnecessarily. Why??? Actually from time to time I am offering freedom of discussion or expression to make better world. Are not you happy? Do you know why? My motto is to give ” Fixed Deposit ” to every poverty ( especially females ) around every corners of the world in EQUAL FINANCE SHARING. That depends to the standard of living in each country and here I can balance the BUDGET easily. Always money will be in handy because collecting ” Monthly Interest ” from the Government Bank for fulfilling their boiling stomachs. All the balance mentioned in my lengthy DATA which accepted as unsolicited. Why??? KNOWLEDGE IS POWER so I researched New Innovation: BETTER DATA – BETTER DECISION – BETTER WORLD. I heard America showing generous around the world into New Innovation – GIVING USA 2017 and very grateful to the Researcher Madam Aggie Sweeney. Further I am giving you positive explanation all in very nice manner and never opposed to anyone so pay sharp attention. Those having computers means middle class families will be collecting the money more easily. Shall I ask you only one question? What about the poorest of the poor without computer? They all are starving to death and for their sake I am struggling to achieve my goal. Did I did anything wrong? My generosity functions without computer operations but in my office very essential. Again do not be hurt into my repeating suggestions and need your humble cooperation. I love you and all your board members at Network For Good. Lastly I willingly following or abiding your board regulations. Looking forward to your humble response. May Lord Jesus Christ bless you and all with full of happiness forever and ever.

    Offering you billion thanks so make divisions frequently.

    Your most obediently,
    Terry Pious Pereira ( S/o War Veteran ).

About This Blog

Lisa Bonanno
Vice President of Digital Marketing

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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