This month I want to talk about the 8 Most Important Direct Mail Questions I’m Asked. I recently conducted a webinar for nonprofits. There were questions I was asked which I’m sure you might be asking too. I thought I’d share a roundup of the top eight.
1. How will postage increases affect my direct mail program and what can I do to offset the higher cost?
This is a significant question because when rates will go up, net revenue goes down. There are a few steps to keep postage costs as low as possible. Improving the quality of your house file, maximizing your postal discounts, altering your package shape and weight, and segmenting your donor list are the top four things you can do to offset postal increases.
Make sure your list is clean and remove addresses of people who have passed away. Eliminate duplicates and update addresses for those who do not match USPS’s standards for deliverability Your lettershop should be running your file through NCOA, utilizing zip correction, and address standardization. Talk to them about co-mingling your mail for optimum postal savings. If your package is over-sized, oddly sized, or too heavy you should consider testing less expensive package formats. Segmenting your house file and mailing the profitable names more often and cutting back on the less responsive names will allow you to mail smarter and more efficiently.
2. How should I segment my house file?
With rising mailing costs, it’s more important than ever to increase the efficiency of mailings directed towards active and lapsed donors allowing you to mail fewer pieces at increased performance levels. It’s also important to review the packages you’re mailing to each segment. Since lapsed donors net less revenue, test a package which costs less to produce but still results in an acceptable net. Models can be built to predict and measure performance in multiple segments of your file directing you towards which segments to mail more often than others.
3. What should my letter be about?
Tell stories which demonstrate human impact and connect with the reader on an emotional level. Show donors where the money is going and how it is being used. It’s not about the organization, it’s about the impact donors are making. Use the word “you” many times and include a P.S. in your letter that restates the ask with a call to action. Incorporate underlines, boldface, and subheads. And don’t forget to ask for a donation more than once!
4. Do acquisition mailings always lose money?
More times than not yes, your acquisition program will lose money. It’s an expensive proposition mainly because of the list rental costs. If you can attract new donors and build a relationship, the net revenue will come from your renewal program. The profit comes from ongoing donors who give more often, and larger amounts. Acquisition is the way you find those profitable donors.
5. If I send too many renewal mailings, will I turn my donors away?
Many large nonprofits mail 12-18 times a year plus newsletters. If you do less, your donor retention might not be where it needs to be. If your mailings are not netting as much as they should be, it might not be about how much your mailing, but what you are mailing. Take a critical look at the package and your copy. Are you connecting with your donors in a personal way with emotional impact?
6. Is it wrong to use the same gift ask on every donation form?
I can’t stress this enough. Every gift ask in your renewal program should be personalize based on the donor’s most recent contribution and should have upgrade levels so if they choose, they can give more. Don’t give them the option to donate less, but do give them an option to fill in a gift amount. So yes, it’s not in your organizations best interest to use the same gift ask on every donation form. For acquisition, test a variety of gift asks to find the one which brings you the best response rate.
7. Do I really need to test? It’s so expensive.
Yes, you really need to test. If you want to maintain a healthy direct mail program, combat package fatigue, and ensure the growth of your program you need to test. Testing doesn’t always have to involve expensive new packages and premiums. Test teaser copy, envelope color, letter copy, and gift asks. They’re effective and inexpensive ways to increase your response rate and net revenue. Test things that you think have the potential to make a real difference in your program. New lists, packages, and offer can go a long way to yield the maximum response.
8. Should I coordinate my direct mail with an email campaign?
Yes. Absolutely. Studies continue to affirm the significant impact of direct mail in driving online donations.
Some nonprofits have found success with sending an email announcing the delivery of a direct mail campaign, while others prefer sending out their direct mail package first and following up with an email. This article has interesting information about direct mail and digital marketing tactics.