Last week, the United States Postal Service announced that marketing mail volumes for Q1 2018 dropped 6.2%. This is the most dramatic decline in marketing mail volumes in five years. This follows a drop of approximately 3.2% in 2017. Separately, the print industry reported 2017 shipments were the lowest since 2008. While these trends can be unsettling to some nonprofits who depend on direct mail for fundraising, we see it differently.

First, to state the obvious, mail volume is not the criteria by which fundraisers should measure their effectiveness, nor is volume a definitive indicator of the health of mail as a channel. The key metrics by which mail performance should be evaluated are net dollars raised and mail’s contribution to an effective multichannel strategy. (Done well, direct mail is a highly effect tool to drive online activity and donations.)

However, what the USPS and print statistics do indicate is that the old approaches to direct mail fundraising are simply not good enough. So how can fundraisers, who depend on mail, be assured that the mail channel remains highly effective?

Direct mail fundraising success starts with the underlying data that drives mail investments and targeting. We have tremendous experience working with and managing aggregated insights from thousands of tests and millions of transactions. This helps us ensure that the right messaging can be conveyed to the right prospects and donors, at the right time.

Yet while direct mail fundraising success starts with targeting, versioning, and decisioning, more is required to win. Data also plays a critical role in developing and designing the right creative and copy. To properly leverage the data-driven targeting and messaging, we find that in most circumstances digital print capability, combined with selective inserting and postal optimization, is also essential. This ensures that the data insights can be fully and efficiently used in a cost-efficient manner — and donor messaging is as relevant, as timely, and as compelling as possible.

In addition, it is important to note that savvy nonprofits are using a synchronized combination of online and offline techniques to maximize fundraising success. While mail often remains critical for acquisition, online communications for engagement and retention are more important than ever to derive a strong fundraising net.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that several nonprofits, using these strategies, are expanding mail volumes… capitalizing on less clutter and competition in the mailbox… and generating record levels of success from the mail channel.

While at first blush, declining volumes can be unsettling trends, by using the right strategies, fundraising success won’t be a trend, but a constant.

If you are interested in any more specificity regarding how other nonprofits are succeeding in today’s changing world, we are happy to help.

Don McKenzie is President & Chief Growth Officer of Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com; and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook