RIPWell it’s that time again?  Another new year and with it another crop of “New Years gurus” spewing the end of the direct mail fundraising industry… we’ve heard it all before: “the internet has ended direct mail”; “social networks have replaced direct mail”; “postage price increases have killed direct mail”; “paper manufacturing costs have crushed the DM industry”.  The list could go on and on.

What the New Year gurus fail to understand is that it is not an “either or” scenario.  It is not direct mail versus the internet. It is direct mail AND all the other channels of giving.  DM and the web now work together for the donors convenience.

Make no mistake about it, direct mail is changing.  There are fewer donors using the preprinted DM reply devices and reply envelopes.  America’s top non-profits are now reporting that between one-quarter and one-third of all direct mail responders use the charity’s web site as their response device.  No other channel drives more gifts to your website than Direct Mail!

If you are not doing a “match back” of your internet gifts against your mail file you may be missing a very important metric in measuring the success of your fundraising program.  The best charities even track the the day the mailing arrives in home and the day the donor goes on line to make their gift.  The spikes correlate almost to the hour the postman reaches out and places the mail in the donors mail box.

In addition you should know that the more zeros on the check the more likely it is that the donor will NOT use the preprinted reply and envelope.  If you track major gifts that come in on-line, by a phone call or white mail (the donor’s own envelop, not the pre-printed reply envelop) you are going to see that the date of the donation is usually within 72 hours of the in-home date of your last direct mail piece.   Donors making bigger donations of  $500, $1,000, $5,000 or more often DO NOT USE the pre-printed envelops that they are given with the direct mail piece.

Many “experts” fail to look at giving the same way as the donors do.  Development professionals have been trained to measure the results… as independent channels.  The fact is that over the last decade this is not how fundraising happens.  Most people who give online also give through the mail and people who give in the mail also give through other channels.

Any fundraising “expert” saying that ALL giving is shifting to the internet because it’s the new technology is absolutely wrong.  When people give on line it is no more about the technology as saying when people give in the mail it is because of the paper. There are multiple reasons for why donors give through multiple channels. I tend to believe it is simply convenience at the point of contact. It can be the time of year. It can be dollar amount of the gift. There are a huge number of other reasons why people give through multiple channels.

Roy C. Jones, CFRE

Roy C. Jones, CFRE

I met recently with the president of a not-for-profit who shared that “we are going to stop using the mail entirely and move to digital communications exclusively.” After falling off my chair (for the dramatic effect, of course) I shared with him that he was about ready to “deep six” his organization. He changed his mind after our discussion about integration of mail with the internet.  If you are about to accepted another New Years guru’s pronouncement that “direct mail is dead” be careful. Donors need to be given options so they can make a choice for the best channel to process each gift. When you limit the number of ways to give you are telling your supporters “give my way or give your money to someone else.”  Rest assured, many donors will just head down the road to their next favorite charity.