Honoring Channel Preference Delivers Fundraising Wins

Donor control of communications channels is important for efficient fundraising contends DonorVoice’s The Agitator in a recent blog post worth passing along to AccuList USA’s fundraiser and fundraising consultant clients.

Cutting Costs and Boosting Deliverability

Fundraisers fret over opt-out rates in their efforts to grow donor files. Yet failing to learn and honor channel preference not only leads to higher opt-out rates but to wasteful marketing as well. People who opt out of telemarketing or e-mail channels are unlikely to give through that channel, so the resulting file reduction is actually a savings, cutting spending that annoys rather than produces. Plus sending e-mails to people who routinely don’t open them lowers overall e-mail deliverability, reducing e-mails that might get through to those who do want them, for another real but hidden cost.

Increasing Opt-ins and Donor Value

Giving channel control to donors can produce more quality file growth. DonorVoice has done two different tests of what causes people to opt in, and both show that donor communications control is the single biggest factor in whether someone will want to learn more from a nonprofit. Plus, another recent study by DonorVoice and the DMA Nonprofit Federation found that allowing donors control of their communications makes them more likely to donate, and that donors who provide and receive a communications preference tend to be more valuable donors. For example, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare coded people who requested less mail and sent them half as many appeals as those who stated no preference.  Those donors who requested and received half as many contacts actually gave more than the group that didn’t express a preference, per the DonorVoice article.  Catholic Relief Services also found that donors who requested a specific mail preference gave 6 to 8 times more per year, notes the same blog post. By asking for communications preference and honoring it, fundraisers identify more quality donors and make them more likely to stay.

Direct Mail Channel Still Leads With Donors

Despite the growth of online giving, channel preferences continue to favor direct mail, which is one reason it is still alive and kicking as a fundraising tool.  In fact, 73% of consumers say they prefer mail for brand communications, and that includes nonprofits, and 62% like checking the mail, per Epsilon research. Plus, mail gives nonprofits an edge in getting their message across since “brain science” research shows that printed appeals leave a deeper impression and stimulate more emotional processing. Plus, direct mail donors have higher retention rates; 31% of first-time offline donors are retained compared with 25% of new online donors, according to Blackbaud. For more on the case for fundraising direct mail, see this DonorVoice blog post.

Direct Mail Still Powers Fundraising, Especially Planned Giving

At AccuList USA, nonprofit interest in our direct mailing lists and services for fundraising remains strong despite the growing share of donor dollars collected via online giving. Some of the reasons that fundraising pros remain committed to mail power are cited in a recent article for The NonProfit Times by Mark Hrywna.

Direct Mail Is Vital in a Multi-Channel Mix

It’s true that nonprofit organizations are beginning to see a growing share of donations attributed to online giving, but as Steve MacLaughlin, vice president of data and analytics at fundraising tech firm Blackbaud, stresses in the article, online giving is still less than 10% of all charitable giving. Fundraisers need to avoid confusing the channel of engagement with the channel of transaction, he advises. Direct mail response certainly is no longer limited to mailed donations as many direct mail recipients go online to give; similarly, a mobile-device outreach or e-mail appeal can generate offline gifts. Even in an increasingly digital world, a good multi-channel mix will include direct mail.

Direct Mail Keeps Proving Its Power

Hrywna cites Make-a-Wish Foundation as an example of continued direct mail investment. When Chief Financial Officer Paul Mehlhorn started with Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2009, he recalls that he was told direct mail was a dinosaur that would be gone in five or six years.  Yet last year the national office exceeded 2009 direct mail revenue by several million dollars, going from $13.9 million to $15.3 million. “It looks to me like a program that can stay very strong for the next 10 to 15 years,” Mehlhorn asserts to Hrywna. In fact, Mehlhorn says he may expand on that direct mail success: “We continue to increase our investment in online giving. However, we are reconsidering our approach to direct mail and may increase our investment for direct mail in future years. As you get past the low-hanging fruit, [online] becomes almost as costly as direct mail. Unless you enlarge your donor pool, you’re going to be spending about the same.”

Direct Mail Has a Key Role in Planned Giving

Plus, while the revenue ratio of direct mail to online giving has gone from 3:1 to even at Make-a-Wish, there are some areas where direct mail retains an edge, such as planned giving. Make-A-Wish Foundation has seen revenue from planned gifts just about triple during the past four years, growing from about $2 million to $6 million, and Mehlhorn credits part of that success to actively promoting planned giving in direct mail as well as online campaigns. “A lot of the folks now making end-of-life plans are still in that generation that likes getting mail,” he points out.

For more, see The NonProfit Times article.