As you build out your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy for the year, you may be wondering whether or not you should include direct mail. After all, this channel can be more costly than other avenues and may feel antiquated in today’s digital age.

However, the return on investment (ROI) for direct mail marketing remains strong, with some marketers reporting up to 112% ROI

This is due in part to the fact that donors genuinely enjoy receiving direct mail, for four key reasons. In this article, we’ll explore each of the following differentiators that make direct mail such an effective fundraising channel:

An infographic listing the four key differentiators of direct mail

1. It’s tangible.

One of the top benefits of direct mail for both nonprofits and donors is its tangibility—just being able to hold your message in their hands helps recipients connect more with your organization and keeps your nonprofit fresh in their minds.

For example, Meyer Partners’ direct mail fundraising guide explains that if a supporter places your direct mail appeal on a table in their home or adds your handwritten card to their fridge, they’ll be reminded of your organization day after day. With this physical reminder of their connection to your nonprofit, they’re more likely to remember to donate and get involved in other ways.

Long-term donors may especially appreciate this tangibility since it reminds them of the positive impact they’ve made on your cause so far. Consider mailing loyal donors additional tangible reminders of your organization like branded stickers, keychains, or other small gifts to strengthen their connection even further.

2. It feels personal and authentic.

Bulk emails and social media posts can feel impersonal and generic to donors, limiting your messages’ ability to engage them. By physically arriving at their doors, however, direct mail messages naturally feel more personal and are therefore more likely to impact recipients.

For instance, consider the differences between these two scenarios:

  1. volunteer receives a thank-you email that ends up in their inbox’s “Promotions” folder. They skim the subject line “Thanks for Your Support” but assume that the body of the email is asking for an additional donation. Because they think the email is an advertisement, they delete it without opening or reading the message.
  2. A volunteer receives a personalized thank-you letter in the mail. When checking their mailbox, they see a hand-addressed envelope and wonder what’s inside. The volunteer opens it and finds a heartwarming message signed by your nonprofit’s volunteer coordinator. They smile, fondly remembering their last volunteer experience, and keep the letter as a reminder of their good work.

Of these two options, the thank-you letter sent via direct mail is much more likely to reach the supporter, make them feel genuinely appreciated, and ultimately boost retention. And this phenomenon isn’t limited to thank-you letters—direct mail fundraising appeals also feel like more personal asks than online messages do.

3. It stands out.

While people are bombarded with promotional emails and online ads, the fact is that your donors don’t receive as much direct mail these days. This makes any message you send in the mail stand out and stick in the minds of donors. It may even feel refreshing to receive a physical letter after being bogged down in work emails all day.

Just think about the different formats of a fundraising event invitation, for example. A formal, personalized invitation sent via direct mail is much more eye-catching than a lengthy, generic email.

To make your messages stand out even more, try strategies like:

  • Using thoughtful images of volunteers, beneficiaries, or supporters at an event.
  • Including eye-catching numbers and statistics that showcase your organization’s impact.
  • Personalizing messages by mentioning a donor’s past contributions or involvement.
  • Having staff members or volunteers handwrite letters to certain high-value supporters like major donors.
  • Closing with a clear call to action about what recipients should do next to support your organization.

These tactics can be especially helpful during times when multiple nonprofits are vying for your donors’ attention, like the year-end giving season. To ensure that your messages retain their power to stand out, however, avoid overwhelming donors with too many direct mail messages in a short period.

4. Recipients trust direct mail.

As online misinformation runs rampant and trust in the internet is dropping significantly, many donors see direct mail as a more credible source of information. In fact, Harvard Business Review reports that 76% of consumers trust direct mail and that the public consistently trusts traditional media more than online advertisements and social media.

You can build on recipients’ natural trust of direct mail and cultivate stronger relationships with donors by:

  • Using consistent branding. Donors are more likely to trust your messages when they can immediately recognize they come from your organization. Make sure to brand your direct mail messages with consistent colors, fonts, and logos that align with your branding. If you’re looking for ways to improve or unify your nonprofit’s brand, leverage resources like Kwala’s nonprofit branding guide to find new ways to refine your strategy.
  • Telling authentic, respectful stories. Your donors should never feel like you’re exaggerating the truth or using dishonest scare tactics to earn donations. Cultivate trust by only including genuine, true stories about your nonprofit’s work and prioritizing respect for both donors and beneficiaries.
  • Working with a professional marketing agency. An experienced marketing agency that understands nonprofit priorities can help you craft top-notch, professional direct mail appeals that earn even more trust from your recipients. These experts know all the best strategies for appealing to donors via direct mail and will ensure that your messages stay true to your organization’s voice and mission.

Additionally, make sure to listen to any feedback you receive from donors about your direct mail messages and honor the wishes of those who ask to be taken off your mailing list.

With these differentiators in mind, you’ll be in a better position to effectively leverage direct mail for your nonprofit and play to its inherent strengths as a communication channel.

You can even access all the benefits of direct mail without sacrificing the ease of online formats! By adding a QR code that leads to your donation page, for instance, you can make giving quick and convenient for donors. Be sure to incorporate direct mail into a well-rounded, multichannel fundraising strategy to see the best results.