Fundraising Pros Forecast 2017 Trends for Direct Mail

For nonprofits, 2017 offers an avalanche of political and technological changes, yet we don’t see any trend sweeping direct mail or e-mail out from under fundraising marketers just yet. Certainly, AccuList USA’s top fundraising mailing lists, based on proprietary research, continue to deliver donors and dollars to clients.

In fact, NonProfit PRO magazine recently found relevant mailing insights when it asked nonprofit pros nationwide for 2017 fundraising trend predictions. A few nuggets from its “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017” include:

Digital & Analog Can Grow Together

Marketers should see digital and non-digital communications as symbiotic rather than competitive. Indeed, Roger Craver and Tom Belford, editors of The Agitator, predicted that the continued rise of digital technology and data will paradoxically foster an increase in “old fashioned” pre-digital methods of communication and relationship building, such as direct mail, printed “thank you” notes, personal phone calls and print newsletters. Why? Because old-fashioned non-digital communications “provide a key—and currently missing—fundraising ingredient: a human, real-life interaction between an organization and its donors.”

Integrating Not Just Multiplying Channels

Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, principal of Clairification, advised nonprofits to recognize that they are now dealing with an all-encompassing “Generation Connected” (GenC) and must be in multiple spaces simultaneously—but with consistent and integrated messaging. Merely fundraising through multiple channels does not equal integration from the consumer’s perspective, she warns;  integration requires coordinated images, messages and offers across channels to avoid muddling the brand.

Going for Mailing Depth Over Volume

Direct mail is still a top fundraising tool—but not if used as a blunt instrument. Nick Ellinger, vice president of marketing strategy at DonorVoice, noted recent Dutch research that found 63% of the revenues of an additional nonprofit mailing aren’t new revenues but rather cannibalized from the revenues of other communications. However, by investing in donor knowledge and targeting, customization and personalization rather than just mail volume, test programs report stable gross revenue and a significant increase in net revenue in year one (or year two at worst), Ellinger reported.

Direct Mail’s Not Dead & Neither Is E-mail

Eric Rardin, vice president of business development for Care2, predicted that e-mail will only increase in importance in 2017. While social tools and platforms proliferate and compete, e-mail emerges as a digital tool that best allows marketers to push traffic and engagement online, he noted, so the value of an e-mail address, with permission to mail, will continue to increase year over year.

Use Technology to Kick Up Results

Though “old-fashioned” mail still drives donations, it may do a better job if paired with new technology. Shari Mason, vice president, marketing communications of Smile Train, suggested embracing 3D-printing initiatives, virtual reality experiences and social-good fundraising platforms to improve giving-impact communications, message sharing, call to action, and cause awareness. Leigh Kessler, vice president of communications for CharityEngine, even urged testing mobile device voice intelligence technology (Siri, Cordera, Google Now)—for example with a direct mail piece that says, “If you have Amazon Echo, just say ‘Alexa, I’d like to Give $25 to customURLnonprofit.org.'”

For more trends, read NonProfit PRO‘s “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017.”

Direct Mail Woos Millennial Shoppers by Embracing Their Digital Side

With the millennial generation, roughly those aged 18-35, now outnumbering boomers, most marketers want to keep this big batch of younger purchasers in their crosshairs. Yet direct mailers sometimes report frustration that response does not match assumptions and expectations from mailing lists and creative.  One cause of lower than desired response may be failure to take into account how millennial shopping and buying habits differ from those of other generational groups.

Yes, Millennials Shop Differently (and Digitally)

A recent article by eMarketer, drawing from its “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” survey report, cited three shopping habits that should be of interest to direct marketers. First, millennials tend to prefer digital shopping, even while in stores. Second, millennials are very comfortable with mobile shopping. And third, millennials have a strong presence on social platforms yet also respond well to direct marketing via e-mail. (See more on the report.)

How Direct Mailers Can Woo Millennials

Millennials are not averse to direct mail–but it depends on the direct mail. Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould recently cited five reasons direct mail may flop with millennials–and three come back to the clear digital preferences identified by eMarketer. First of all, a direct mail offer that does not include an online purchase option is missing sales, Gould points out. And, per eMarketer reporting, mailers may be losing sales in a big way considering that 90% of millennials, 93% of Gen Xers and even 84% of boomers said they bought online in a June 2016 Berkeley Research Group survey. Next, since millennials clearly embrace mobile shopping, every aspect of the shopping experience should be mobile-friendly (website, landing pages, shopping cart), Gould advises, and it is certainly key if the direct mail includes mobile-scanned QR codes to connect digitally. Then, since social media matters to millennials and is where they do research before they buy, a direct mailer lacking a social presence is also snubbing millennial shoppers. But not just any social outreach will do; millennials want authentic, informative, humanized interaction.

Friendly, Authentic, Tech Savvy

Regardless of digital messaging, printed content also needs to seem authentic and friendly if the mailer wants millennials to make a connection with the offer and the brand, per Gould. Millennials value companies that make them feel good, she points out, so mailers should review their creative and remove the phony or impersonal. Finally, millennials expect a company to be up-to-date with technology and to integrate marketing, shopping and sales with technology–whether in-store, in direct mail, or on the website. Millennials can relate to direct mail offers–but not if they are tied to a company that lacks the technological savvy to make interaction easy, seamless and personalized. Do millennials’ digital and tech preference mean that direct mailers can only succeed by stuffing technology into print pieces–QR, AR, video, etc.? Not necessarily, answers Gould. As with any marketing effort, just test what makes sense for enhancing audience experience and boosting response.  For Gould’s article, see http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/how-to-get-millennials-to-respond-to-your-direct-mail/