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.
Direct Mail far out-performs all digital channels combined. Well-written donation letters not only raise donations for the non-profit, but can even attract new donors, raise awareness of the cause, and retain donors longer.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive in our technology-driven world, people like to get mail. They especially like mail personalized about topics they find interesting. People tend to trust the mail more than digital communication, especially about a cause they are passionate about, programs supporting that cause, and with experts discussing those matters.
Who is Responding to Donation Letters?
For non-profit organizations, one of the questions they want to know is: “Who is giving to our organization?” The honest answer, proven over and over again, is that most people who make contributions to non-profits, particularly through the mail, are older people. Many of these donors are retired, and appreciate mail. They are interested in opening that envelope and reading that letter. Even if it's eight pages long, they will read it with great attention.
This is a good thing. Generally speaking, people who have disposable income and assets are retirement age or older. People in their 40’s are still struggling to raise children, send them to school, pay off their mortgages, etc. Somebody who's 65 is likely retired, living on the proceeds of a 401K, an IRA, or some other type of pension. And because they've planned for retirement, they are more likely to have $50 or a $100 to send to a non-profit.
How to Inspire Donations Through the Mail?
An essential aspect of a donation letter is to convince your potential donors that your cause is worthwhile and they should join you. Take the appropriate time to explain to them how their donations will be used. Before they give to you or any organization they have to trust you on some level. It's hard to achieve this level of trust through digital communications, because our internet communications are usually short e-mails, or a 140 character tweet, or paragraph on Facebook. Effective Direct Mail packages are often longer because they give the writer a chance to lay out a strong case for supporting the non-profit.
So, when creating a Direct Mail package, keep in mind that the reader will very likely be an older individual. These individuals are cautious and responsible people. They do not make decisions on a whim. They think things through, including who they give their hard earned money to. So make sure to respect that caution. Lay out the case for your non-profit carefully. Emotional copy is certainly essential, perhaps the most essential, aspect of direct mail.
Can you get Younger Donors?
You may be wondering whether anyone has studied or tested the age demographic of Direct Mail respondents. In a way, we do that all the time.
I can think of an example from years ago before I started Lawrence Direct Marketing. I was working with a database company in the Direct Marketing field and we had one of the national political committees as a client. At their request, we arranged for their list of donors to be analyzed from the standpoint of demographic sector. Basically, we were hoping to discover what kind of people are these donors? Who are they? It was an interesting project because it told them a lot about their donors. One fact about their donors stood out and shocked the client: They were old. The median age of the donors on this list was a little above 70. Median, meaning half of the people on the list were over 70.
This shocked and frightened the client to the point where they asked us to develop a plan to get some new donors that were substantially younger. This is a case where the client wanted us to do something for them that we would bill handsomely for, but I tried to talk them out of doing it because I already knew what the result would be. But they still persisted. They wanted us to test a major mailing of older potential donors versus younger potential donors. It seemed that the younger donors enjoyed getting mail, and they enjoyed reading it, but they didn't donate. The older donors won the test decisively.
It would have been a waste of money, waste of the donor's money really, for this political committee to continue to invest in acquiring younger donors because the fact is younger donors don't have disposable income needed to support a non-profit.
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