Pro Tips for Successful Direct Mail Campaigns

by | Nov 30, 2023 | Development/Fundraising


When it comes to small-dollar nonprofit donors, fundraisers are spending more time than ever developing online giving campaigns. But we’re here to remind you not to forget about direct mail.

Old-fashioned postal mail is one of the most direct ways to reach your donors (thus the name!). Data shows that direct mail response rates are five to nine times higher than any other advertising channel.

70% of consumers say direct mail is more personal than online interactions.

Plus, with direct mail, you get more time and attention from your donors. On average, Americans receive 605 emails and 16.8 pieces of mail every week. For every 36 emails your donors are getting, they are getting only one piece of direct mail!

So, whether you’re polishing up your year-end appeal or gearing up for your spring appeal, let’s dive into how to get the highest return on your direct mail investment.


5 Key Direct Mail Tips


Address your donors by name

Ensure your contact lists are accurate and up to date before sending your lists off the mail house. Advertising research shows the simple of adding a name on your direct mail piece can increase response rates by 135%.


Personalize the donor experience

Personalization should happen in both the ask and the thank you. 60% of nonprofit donors value a personalized experience, but only 44% are satisfied with the level of personalization they receive. This leaves a lot of room for improvement! Personalization can be as simple as adding a handwritten note to your appeal and acknowledgment letters. This is a great place to enlist your board of directors to help out.


Segment your list

Another easy way to provide a more personalized donor experience is to segment your list. Segmentation allows you to separate your list into several groups based on donor preferences, giving history, interests, location, and much more. With segmentation, you can tailor your direct mail messaging so it’s more effective—without increasing cost.


Customize the ask amount

This is where segmenting your list can provide especially high ROI. Data shows that individuals given a variable ask amount based on their previous gifts are 20-50% more likely to renew at the same level or increase their gift.


Craft a clear, concise, and compelling message

Despite what you may have heard, there are no hard and fast rules about length for direct mail appeals. The most important thing is to be sure your message is clear and tailored to your audience. Focus on the impact the donor has helped you achieve and will help you achieve through their gift. If you need an extra page or two to get the message right, that’s okay—especially if you are tailoring that message to your donor segments. In fact, research shows that both long and short direct mail appeals can perform equally well.

If you’re looking for guidance on how to put all of this into practice, we have some great webinars available at Funding for Good.

I recommend starting with Direct Mail Campaigns 101 and Customizing Direct Mail Appeals.

Both webinars are also included in our Vault, where one annual subscription gets you 24/7 access to dozens of nonprofit fundraising and leadership trainings, tools, and templates!

Free Grant Template


Start writing grants that get funded!

Get the grant template designed and used by expert fundraisers. 

It's on it's way! Are you ready to get started? We hope so because the download link for the checklist is going to hit your inbox any second now.