With the ease and widespread acceptance of online fundraising many people speculate that direct mail is a dying fundraising channel. However, “direct mail is over seven times more effective than all digital channels combined, according to the Direct Marketing Association Response Rate Report 2015.”  In our Case Study, Growing a Donor Database, available here, we examine the effectiveness of a direct mail program for a US-based non-profit that provides aid and services overseas. Before we began to work with the charity, they had no direct mail program, and their database of donors had been growing slowly and barely outpacing attrition.   As a part of the program, we developed and mailed 2 different prospect (new donor acquisition) packages to 10 donor lists of third party non-profits. We selected those non-profits whose mission gave us some reason to believe their donors might also consider making a donation to our client. We split all the lists in half and mailed each half one of the two separate packages. This allowed us to determine which lists worked and which of the two packages worked best.  After the initial mailing was successful, we mailed two more rollouts of the more successful package. In addition to these prospect mailings, LDMI began developing and mailing monthly direct mail to the house file consisting of the newly acquired donors and the charity’s existing donors. The results were astounding.  Despite the fact that Prospect mailings tend to lose money, every round of Prospect mail profited.  The Prospect mailings brought in over 3,000 new donors, resulting in a 297% increase in the total number of donors.   To read more, please click here for the full Case Study, Growing a Donor Database.
  In Non-Profit Direct Response, copywriting is king. This is not the case for typical, mainstream advertising, where design is premium. Beautiful, full-color, high-gloss, very expensive ads are the bread and butter of the mainstream advertising agency. Anyone who reads the New York Times notices the huge number of pages, content and ads, that are full color, with beautiful images, and type so small it's nearly impossible to read. Clearly, in that environment, design rules over copy. And copy is relegated to the bottom right-hand corner with grey type against a black background that no one pays attention to. Direct response: Copywriting is King In Direct Mail, especially for non-profits, copy is the king. The words rule. This could be in a donation request letter, or a newsletter, or even a “Thank You” letter. “Both copy and graphics must be developed in parallel to ensure that the user experience is positive and doesn't fail to reach its target,” but design must support the copy, not dominate it, not distract from it. In direct response, it is the copywriting that drives the story and allows you to make an emotional connection with the recipent. “In the words of Jeffrey Zeldman, 'design in the absence of content is not design; it¹s decoration'. And he couldn't be more right!” In Direct Mail, sometimes beautiful design can actually hurt you, especially in a donation request letter. Think of someone who is in the perfect demographic for a non-profit donor. They receive an envelope that is full color, front and back. When they open the letter, they find a brief letter in hard to read type over top of an eleaborate image with a really nice picture of the signer and a very elaborate color logo on the letterhead. There is also a brochure in full color which, when they unfold it, discover is about the size of a poster. There may be another glossy insert and a reply form in full color. Anyone can see this is all very expensive. This type of mailing (obviously dominated by design) will fail for most non-profits, compared to a letter that is faithfully designed in such a way to encourage the recipient to read the copy. Design Supports Copy Pictures are great in fundraising. If you're raising funds to support an orphanage in Africa, a picture of some of those orphans will certainly help, but the words are the persuasive vehicle. The copy, whether it is a donation request letter or intended to get people to sign a petition, allows you to make a strong case for supporting the orphans. You are not wasting resources on fancy designs or expensive mailings. The recipient gets the impression that their donation will go directly to those orphans you just discussed. So if you want to help these orphans, you need the words to do that. And whether I've convinced you of that or not, test it sometime. Test a design-heavy, full-color, expensive looking package versus a simple, more personal donation request letter. A lot of the donors, whether or not they articulate it , are going to say, "Wow, they spent a lot of money on this mailing. Why are they asking me to send them money when they're already spending all this money on this very expensive piece of mail they sent me?" In a donation request letter good copy will inspire the recipient to give. If written well they will get a sense of how these orphans feel, why they need your help and what your non-profit will do to help with the donors money. Design should only support that message. In direct response copywriting, it is the copy that delivers. To learn more about Direct Response, check out our new, free, downloadable ebook – Keys to a Successful Direct Mail Campaign:  
At some point, all non-profit organizations ask how to get donations to continue funding their important work. Despite its long running proven track record, Direct Mail programs incite a sense of fear for many non-profits. (Yes, direct mail is still king.) They think receiving a fundraising letter is something their donors will find annoying and will ultimately result in the donor distancing themselves from the organization. But this is not the case..Direct Mail is the best, most efficient way for non-profits to raise funds for their organization and keep their donors up-to-date on their important work. Read more...
In today’s challenging economy, many people are strapped for cash. The tight purses don’t just apply to individuals, though. Many non-profits are strapped financially, especially when they first start up. As The Atlantic said recently “There’s no doubt that non-profits today face serious financial difficulties and constraints...” There's usually a very small group of people - three or four - who do everything that the organization needs to do. They all work 15 hours a day and they're exhausted after their first year on the job. When newer non-profits finally get to the point where their organization can effectively be championed and supported through direct mail, many people must decide whether it is better to handle the direct mail in house or hire someone to manage their direct mail program. Chances are they are going to be better off finding a direct response company to create and/or stabilize their fundraising efforts. Read more...
What percentage of total fundraising is coming from online donations? I recently came across an excellent article from Upleaf. Published in June of this year, it has some very valuable information, and will be of service to all your fundraising efforts. (Read the full article here: ONLINE FUNDRAISING TRENDS). It tackles the question of online fundraising and where it is headed. I recommend a full reading of the article and Blackbaud's report quoted in the article. Below I have summarized the three key points I took away as most valuable. 1.) The Future and Digital Fundraising According to Blackbaud's 2015 Charitable Giving Report, the vast majority of funds for non-profits come through traditional fundraising channels. As cited in Upleaf: “93% of funds given to nonprofit organizations came from traditional means in 2015 - major gifts, annual funds, fundraising events, checks, snail mail and by phone. Only 7.1% of donations to nonprofits came in online.” The conclusion to draw is obvious: Most of your fundraising efforts need to be geared towards the traditional means of fundraising. This is a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of people, but if you do not utilize the tried and true methods of fundraising you will simply not raise as much as you should. This is not to say that digital fundraising isn't important. It is. Online giving has been increasing year after year. “Online giving has been steadily growing over the last couple of years, up 9.2% from 2014 to 2015. (Blackbaud found a 13% increase in the number of gifts. This means not only is more money coming in, but more people are donating.)” 2.) Integrate Offline and Online Giving Channels Integrate all your fundraising channels. "Joint online and offline campaigns improve donor engagement. People who give both online and offline are more likely to keep giving than those who donate exclusively online or offline. Organizations retain about 58% of multi-channel first time donors as opposed to retaining only 29% of offline-only donors and 23% of online-only donors (2013)" 3.) Focus your efforts online at the end of the calendar year Remember that your online giving strategy should be geared towards the end of the year. 19% of all online giving occurred in December. There are two year-end campaigns strategies LDMI employees for our clients to take advantage of this - Giving Tuesday and Year-end tax deduction campaign. Throughout the year, spend time trying to figure out which messaging and design works most effectively and then employ those findings in December. In conclusion: Digital Fundraising is very enticing to non-profits, especially new non-profits. It seems to be easy, inexpensive, and easily executed. But in fundraising, all non-profits need to let the data dictate what they do, and, in the case of online giving, it continues to represent a small fraction of overall donations. The traditional means of fundraising continue to deliver the vast majority of donations and non-profits need to recognize, and act upon, this fact. Online giving is indeed important, but remains secondary to direct mail, major donors, and grant-writing. To learn more about LDMI Online Strategies, Sign up for our monthly newsletter of direct marketing tips here:      

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