I have a feeling that no matter how much technology and supporters evolve, direct mail will continue to be a part of the picture for the next twenty years. Why? The typical donor is still very much responding to this medium. By typical donor, I mean people who are currently between 50 and 65 years old. People are living well into their 80s, so this group will likely be involved with your organization for many more years to come.
Although many organizations would like to switch gears to focus entirely on Millennials, the reality is that they aren’t the ones donating the bulk to money to non-profits (yet). So as much as many of us would like to abandon the direct mail ship, it’s a bit too soon to do so while insuring solvency.
Question: What do we do in the mean time?
Answer: Evolve how we’re doing direct mail.
What does the evolution of direct mail entail, you might wonder?
Changing our approaches to design. Creating interactive mail pieces. Better customization and segmentation. Storytelling.
Direct mail can no longer be one-sided stories and asks. The copy must be more dynamic. Storytelling is one way to achieve this. (And probably the easiest if you don’t have a talented designer at your disposal.) There is a reason why I push storytelling an important technique in contemporary non-profit fundraising communications. Storytelling is what makes your non-profit’s work accessible and relatable to someone who is not an employee. Stories bring an element of humanity into the copy. They move you from talking about high-level pieces of your work (ie – you’re fighting poverty) to a micro-level (ie – Joan was able to get back on her feet because for abc reason).
Supporters want to know who they are helping, not just how many. In order to do this, fundraisers and communicators need to forge strong relationships with programs staff to get as many of these micro-level details as possible.
On Thursday, I’ll be sharing copy from a letter I wrote recently that used this technique and had a 37% response rate (yes, you read that correctly).