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What’s Your Job, Direct Mail? Advice for Nonprofits

​The proliferation of marketing channels is something all practitioners deal with. Each nonprofit marketer needs to continually test and learn to best integrate and weave channels together. From customer journey maps to optimizing for different parts of the marketing and sales funnels, there are dozens of ways to organize and implement marketing. Each nonprofit team and situation is different. The hope is that the organization and approach is a blend of organic learning by experiment, plus some actual pre-planning.

What's Your Story?

Here’s a tip on one way to plan: figure out the job of each channel.

Each piece of marketing – from emails to billboards – has a specific role, a specific job that it’s really good at. For example, a cold email blast to an unknown list is a pretty poor use of email; but an email blast to recent and previous donors is a great use of email.

I like to think about grouping the channels and jobs based on their nature: physical, digital or event. The different tactics underneath are then threaded into the right part of the customer journey.

Physical media, like billboards, posters and direct mail, all have different jobs in the customer journey of awareness, interest, consideration, engagement (purchase) and advocacy. For example, billboards are great for awareness, but terrible for the purchase – don’t donate and drive!

Did I Mention Direct Mail?
Direct mail has a very, very specific job to do for nonprofits in 2019. Its job is to stick around until the recipient delivers a strong donation.

Here’s why: Facebook has done a marvelous job of helping consumers make micro-commitments to nonprofits. The quick tap after a compelling video that persuades a user easily to make a $1 or $5 donation is an ideal job for Facebook Ad marketing. It’s affordable and fast, and takes advantage of users’ in-the-moment engagements and emotional responses to give.

Direct mail tells a story better than most other marketing strategies. The job of direct mail, as physical media, is to be portable.

Its job is to be carried into the house from the mailbox, sorted into the “keep for later” pile and then set down. As people, we need to carve out time to read something and then as we consider donating, we need to set it down and reflect.

No one on earth will open up a direct mail piece and then – at that moment – call or go online to give money. It just won’t happen. Instead, people will read it, set it down… then pick it up later, set it down… then maybe chat with their partner and see what kind of donation they can budget.

What you’re looking for is a more considered donor who has invested more of his/her time in thinking about becoming part of your base.

Help Direct Mail Do Its Job
If the job of direct mail is to stick around – on the fridge, in the “basket” – then help it do its job the best way possible. Imagine your direct mail piece living in the home and being a part of the family pile for a week or even more. The longer it stays in the daily mix of the household and doesn’t get recycled, the more chance you have of them to consider a donation to your nonprofit.

  • Create powerful images that look amazing in print.The images you use and sequence on a postcard, folded piece or letter package should be dramatic and human.
  • Write compelling, thoughtful copy. Don’t try to blast users with just quick sound bites – that’s for digital marketing. Take your time and respect your reader with a cogent, thoughtful and story-based narrative that reminds him/her why they want to be a part of your mission.
  • Make it easy to donate. Super clear direction on this, so when they finally set the piece next to their checkbook or laptop to donate, they know how to do it easily.

While they consider your direct mail, they’ll probably get your reminders on digital marketing, and that’s fine. The goal would be for your recipient to go back to the mailer as the impetus for the donation.

Remember that each channel has a job, something it’s really good at doing when engaging your supporters. Think about your direct mail’s job of living with that potential donor’s household for a while – and, specifically, what you want that to look like – the next time you plan a campaign.

This article was previously published on

By Chris Foster, VP of New Business Development, Modern Postcard

Call a Direct Marketing Specialist at 800.959.8365. 

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