Don’t use direct mail, it will save you loads of money – right?

Don’t use direct mail, it will save you loads of money – right?

Guest Bloggers | 22 September 2015

Fundraisers are always aware of the cost of their marketing approach and should be forever mindful of unnecessary spending. Cutting the cost of raising donations is a first consideration of many charities looking to do the best for the beneficiaries of their fundraising efforts.

The channels for fundraising are wide and varied and each charity must, obviously, invest in specific areas that benefit their cause.

When considering the benefits of a direct mail programme, heed this cautionary tale from the United States and decide if, as Jeff Brooks (US fundraiser and blogger) puts it, this charity’s made “a visionary decision or a massive boneheaded mistake”.

In 2013, the American Cancer Society decided to suspend its direct mail operation in favour of other channels. During a presentation called ‘Direct Mail Acquisition – Engine for Growth or Treadmill for Survival?’ at the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation’s ‘Nonprofit Conference’ in New York (August 15), employees from ACS revealed the extent of the decision:

  • Acquisition of new donors fell by over 11% in a just year
  • Donations from new donors fell by $11.3m (£7m)
  • According to its own accounts, the charity’s voluntary income fell from $885m (£572m) in 2013 to $840m (£543m) the following year.
  • Suspension of direct mail by the charity appeared to reduce income for ACS’s Relay for Life fundraising event: it raised $355m (£227m) from the event last year, $25m (£16m) less than in the previous year.


But Direct Mail is Dead – isn’t it?

Could your charity afford a significant drop in revenue by stopping its direct mail programme? I suspect not (and rest assured ACS restarted direct mail campaigns in June 2014)!

Would your charity benefit from a larger donor list and higher donations by employing a direct mail strategy alongside your other fundraising efforts?

There are many recent surveys that indicate direct mail remains an important part of any marketing mix for any company, and charities are no different. In fact, there is much to suggest direct mail has a greater influence within the third sector:

  •’s “Fundraising Media DNA – 2015” survey for the Institute of Fundraising rated direct mail as the most trustworthy channel available to fundraisers.
  • 2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%


Royal Mail’s Market Reach survey 2014 showed 2 key facts for consideration:

  • 86% of people contacted an organisation online as a direct result of receiving a piece of direct mail
  • A campaign WITH direct mail achieves over twice (104%) the response as a campaign without mail in the mix.


The polite (his article is not all so well mannered) conclusion Jeff Brooks makes about ACS is:

I say we thank the American Cancer Society for making it clear to everyone else: Direct mail matters. A lot!

And when commenting on the Fast.Map survey, Scott Logie of REaD Group Insight is quite clear – “You can’t beat direct mail – you can try but you just can’t!”

Think of direct mail as an investment rather than a cost. Measure your return on investment from a campaign rather than just the cost of the campaign.

You have been warned – now what’s next

To produce an effective direct mail campaign or a campaign including direct mail, you should include your printer right at the very start of the process. At Formara we can help with all of the following:

  • Discuss your data and workout how it can best work for you
  • Understand the various elements you are going to need in the mailing piece
  • Build a good solid creative
  • Link the printed components to your website, social media or donations landing pages whether that be with PURLs or QR codes
  • Ensure the best postage option – there are many around now and, depending on volume, discounts are available that could give significant savings to  contribute to the print costs


Andy Pond, Marketing Manager, Formara Print

Contact Formara for further information:


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