Direct Mail Still the Best Method to Acquire New Donors
ATLANTA—August 14, 2012—A study carried out by research company Campbell River on behalf of the non-profit advisory body, Dunham+Company, found that people were more than three times as likely to donate after being contacted by direct mail than by email.
The researchers asked people making a donation what had prompted them to make a contribution to the charity. The portion of people who were donating after receiving a direct mail appeal was 17 percent, more than three times higher than the 5 percent who had been prompted to donate by an email.
Rick Dunham, CEO of Dunham+Company, described the results of the study as “a bit of a shock.” But perhaps there is a simple explanation: we pay more attention to a physical object that comes into our mailbox than electronic email, which is easily deleted with the click of a mouse.
Analyzing the results of the study, it was found that donors in the 40-59 categories are the most responsive to direct mail—47 percent of them responded to receiving a letter by making a donation in 2012, which is a dramatic increase from 34 percent in 2010. Donors over 60 also respond well to direct mail—24 percent of them donated in 2012 after receiving a letter, an increase of 6 percent since 2010.
Direct mail is particularly effective at getting people to make their first donation to a charity. According to the Blackbaud “2011 DonorCentrics Internet and Multi-Channel Giving Benchmarking Report,” three quarters of new donors were prompted to donate by direct mail, compared to just 17 percent by email.
Direct mail is more expensive as a campaigning tool than electronic methods—such as email and social media—but it also brings in a lot more revenue. The 2011 Blackbaud report revealed that the typical charity in the United States receives 75 percent of its funding through the mail. In comparison, online giving accounts for 10 percent of the total revenue. Moreover, it was revealed that the majority of donors make donations purely through direct mail.
Although electronic campaigns are a good way to raise awareness and increase a charity's visibility, non-profit organizations looking to raise funds should be wary of relying too heavily on online campaigning. Many of the boomer generation who are most likely to donate still are not internet savvy and can appreciate the thought time that goes into direct mail ads. Not engaging in physical mail when searching for donations is simply neglecting some rather large segments and as the research shows, some responsive segments at that.
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