Despite what you may have heard, direct mail is not dying or dead – not even in light of Canada Post’s looming first class postage rate increase or phasing out of door-to-door delivery (If you’ve somehow missed this news, you can read our January blog post How to plan for success in spite of Canada Post).

What this does present though is another good reason to think strategically about what your organization is sending via the mail, and what other opportunities exist to communicate with your donors.

We know that direct mail remains the most efficient tactic with which to build a stable and loyal constituency of individual donors. That said, multichannel integration is really key to reaching a wider variety of age cohorts and allows maximum donor engagement choice. And choice is an important factor for today’s donor – they want to be able to choose when and how often you communicate with them, and they want giving options.

Not only do today’s donors want choice, but you’re also competing for their limited attention. We’re all bombarded by TV, radio and print ads not to mention email, phone and text messages, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.  This is certainly having an impact on marketers. Charities need to ensure that the messages they’re sharing with donors are authentic and relevant.

So how can you ensure that your stories and messages ‘stick’ in your donor’s mind?

  • Ensure your brand is well represented in every piece of communication be it print, online, phone, or in person. We’ve all heard the expression “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” A donor’s very first interaction with your organization is likely to stick in your donor’s mind for many years, if not forever.  Start with your frontline staff (reception)…are they a good representation of your brand? Are they friendly and helpful or ill-mannered and grumpy?
  • Tell and retell your organization’s stories. These are yours and yours alone (or at least they should be) and the most effective tool you have to connect with your donors. And don’t shy away from emotion. Remember the decision to give starts with emotion – empathy, fear, anger – all triggers.
  • Provide opportunities for donors to engage in a variety of ways and develop an integrated approach across all channels to ensure a clear, compelling and consistent message.  Does your direct mail piece reflect your brand? Can the same messaging be found on your website? Are you leveraging your stories across all channels.
  • If you’re just starting out with email, phone or social media, or you’re unsure about what will work best for your organization – commit to testing. Prepare an email follow-up for half of your mail file – how does it impact overall response? Test a personalized URL. Drive donors to your website to view a customized video. Schedule a follow-up call to non-responders.

Though most annual giving programs these days are likely still generating most of their revenues through the mail, many are generating significant revenues online and by phone. A solid annual giving program provides opportunities for donors to connect and give through a variety of channels.

Are you planning on ramping up phone or online activity in response to impending postage increase? Are you thinking about introducing a new channel to communicate with your donors this year? I’d love to hear from you.

This post was written by Heather Brown, former Philanthropic Counsel at Good Works and fundraiser extraordinaire.