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Using Direct Mail to Improve Email Campaigns

Email is easy, cheap and virtually immediate, but it is a real mistake to rely on it as your exclusive mechanism for communicating with your constituents.

Why? Because unlike physical mail, a significant percent of emails are never received or opened. There are lots of reasons, but even the most well maintained email lists have less than 80% deliverability, and open rates that are below 30%. The statistics get even worse as email lists get older, with email list attrition rates that can easily be 25-35% per year.

I’m not trying to dissuade you with this data, just reminding you why it is still very important to include traditional direct mail in your communication mix. For instance, if you email constituents a newsletter four times a year, make sure at least one issue is also sent as a printed piece. Direct mail can also be a critical way to expand and update your email list. Traditionally, this might be done by encouraging people to sign-up for the email version of communications, but consider these ideas:

  1. Postcards to constituents who have not opened your last x emails – Email marketing tools like Constant Contact track if your email couldn’t be delivered and even which people open your email, but what do you do with that information? If your email couldn’t be delivered or even if a constituent hasn’t opened the last 3-4 emails you sent them, there is a very good chance you no longer have a valid email address. Instead of continuing to sending more emails to the same address, it might be more effective to send a simple postcard letting them know that you don’t seem to have correct information and ask them to update it. To make the process really simple, consider including a SmartGive link in the text or the address label so they can just type in the personalized URL to review/update the data via WebLink.
  2. Petition/Survey – Asking constituents to complete an online petition or survey is not only a good way to build engagement, it can be a great way to collect and update email addresses.
  3. Educational information/video links – If your organization’s website has valuable educational information or videos, consider promoting them in your mailings. Just make sure the pages also provide well promoted links to your email list sign-up and donation pages.

Since direct mail is certainly more costly than email, I’d suggest trying these ideas first with active donors or constituents who are the most likely to respond. Later, you can certainly expand the use of these ideas for use with lapsed donors as well as perspective donors.

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