Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Should We Eliminate Our Postal Mail And Use E-mail Instead?

March 31st, 2014 by Karen Climer

On Friday, I spoke to the representative of a national nonprofit organization.  She said they were discontinuing all mailings and focusing on e-mail instead because they wanted to “put the money where it really mattered.”  Previously, they mailed appeals, newsletters, and invitations.  Now, they are planning to do all of that with e-mail and social media.  I suspect that within a year or two this organization will return to using a combination of postal mail and e-mail.  Why do I say that?

First of all, e-mail is not free.  Someone has to write the messages, test the messages, collect the e-mail addresses, and basically spend a lot of time on it.  It is probably not in the budget as “e-mail fundraising” so it might seem like it’s free, but the expense is real.

Second of all, e-mail and postal mail are not interchangeable. Every nonprofit needs both of them.

E-mail is good for:

  • Announcing an emergency (The hurricane blew the roof into the swimming pool.  Help!)
  • Reminding people of an upcoming event
  • Contacting people who don’t want to receive postal mail

Postal mail is good for:

  • Driving people to the website to make an online donation (don’t count on email to do that)
  • Contacting people who don’t want to receive e-mail
  • Sending anything you want people to actually read

Dr. TJ Larkin, author of Communicating Change, says that, “People use the web.  They read paper.”  In other words, we think of e-mail and paper mail differently.  You can’t eliminate either one from your communication plan and expect the same results.

Effective fundraising requires a multichannel approach.  That means a combination of mail, email, phone, social media, and face-to-face visits.  If you eliminate any one of these channels, you are not saving money.  You are costing your organization in lost donations.

Posted in Communication, Direct Mail, Email

3 Responses

  1. Lisa

    I agree 100% with what you say. I know this from experience. When I was working at a local non-profit we cut back on mailing and the result screamed…TOLD YOU SO!! When I added postal mail back into the communication mix of our holiday appeal…the result doubled in one year. Give it a whirl. Numbers don’t lie 🙂

  2. Karen Climer

    Very well said. I love your comment because I think we’ve all been there – maybe not with cutting back on mailing, but with something. I know I’ve had a few ideas that I thought were brilliant, but the results seemed to scream, “What a hair-brained idea that was!”

    The real key is diversity. It’s not all about direct mail or email or social media or even major gifts. It takes a little bit of everything.

    Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience.

  3. Ward

    You have to know your donor base. I was the Outreach Manager/Planned Giving Officer for the Southern Poverty Law Center for the last five years (I’m currently the new Director of Planned Giving at Nova Southeastern University). The SPLC utilizes and relies heavily on direct mail. The average age of an SPLC donor is in his/her late 60s/early 70s and this demographic still responds to mail at a higher rate than they do to emails. (However, over the last three to four years, the SPLC has ramped up its online giving presence and its email solicitations.) But, direct mail, at least for the time being, is going to continue to play the driving force behind SPLC’s fundraising efforts. Morris Dees is not only a legendary trial lawyer, but he is a direct marketing genius and the strategies that the SPLC has developed over the last 40+ years under his guidance works well at a really high level.

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