Youve Got Direct MailNew media, emerging technologies and social media are all buzz-worthy components of a 21st century multi-channel fundraising program. They are sizzling hot.

But it’s still the same: the sizzle doesn’t fill you up.  The steak does. And in non-profit fundraising, direct mail is still a thick, juicy rib eye.

When you compare Traditional and Emerging Media for driving purchases you’ll find that consumers are more likely to buy based on messages they receive through traditional media.

“Direct mail has influenced more consumers to purchase than any other channel.” In an annual survey conducted by ExactTarget on effective media channels, 65% of consumers have bought something as a result of a direct mail piece. And direct mail is the only medium that doesn’t need the recipients to opt-in.

Although this figure is biased toward older consumers, the report tells us that 57% of 25 to 34-year-olds have made a purchase resulting from direct mail, almost identical to the number who have been directly influenced by a television commercial (59%). 18 to 24-year-olds are also most likely to be influenced by direct mail (50%), with older consumers even more likely to have made a purchase as a result of this channel. The only exception is for teens, where direct mail-influenced purchases (51%) are second to television commercials (59%).

Further evidence of mail’s importance:

  • 33% of online donors will switch channels to become offline donors. Compare that to just 3% of offline donors who switch to online giving.  After several years, about half of all online-acquired donors are giving offline gifts and over 40% are giving exclusively offline. This research comes via the donorCentrics “Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report.”
  • Direct Mail is a more important driver to online giving than online communications.  More than twice as many online donors say they were prompted to give an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal compared to when they received an e-appeal, according to a national US study Dunham+Company recently conducted through research firm Campbell Rinker.
  • Direct mail is very, very personal.  From outside in, it tells a story.  People linger over it.  They hold it.  They can even sometimes hear it and even smell it.  It’s multi-dimensional.  Great direct mail provides the donor with an intimate experience that leads straight to the wallet by way of the heart.

Don’t let us mislead you: Direct mail isn’t just touchy-feely.  It begins with science:  List selection, segmentation, modeling, wealth analysis, overlays, merging/purging, ask strings.  There’s a lot of head that goes into all that heart.

But for direct mail to be successful in the long-term… to retain donors and increase their value over time… to get them to become monthly donors and major donors… to find yourself in their will…

You must rise above the cluttered marketplace.  You must be a singular voice offering a singular experience to your stakeholder. 

Lastly, let me be clear, we firmly believe in all forms of new media for fundraising.  In fact, we are pioneering many of them.  But when it comes to acquiring donors, direct mail is still the number one channel.

When You’ve Got Mail – supported by world-class targeting, modeling, personalization and analytics – you usually have a healthy file of new donors too.

– Terri Costello, is a member of Innovairre’s CSI team.  Innovairre supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world.  For more information about our direct mail solutions, contact us at