Direct Mail Out

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Nearly thirty years after the first website went public, nonprofit fundraising direct mail remains the dominant outreach channel for organizations of all types and sizes. Even as the pandemic accelerated adoption of online technologies over the last year, mail continues to be the driving force for acquiring, upgrading and keeping donors and members.

Most Nonprofit Fundraising is not Done Online

  • Pick a card, type a message, and we'll mail it out for you. 2 Type a message. Upload Your Own. A blank canvas for your photo or design. Dog Birthday Zoom. By Yeppie Paper New. By Leveret Paperie Top seller.
  • Fill out your direct mail postcard with our library of high quality images. Once you’ve chosen a postcard layout to get started with, you can quickly add your own brand or product images, and paste in your well-worded, snappy sentences. But don’t stop there! Add some flair from our collection of high quality images, ready to drag and drop.
  • Use them to advertise promotions, announce the opening of a new location, or mail out coupons. They’re also great for targeting new movers or people with birthdays each month. We provide several postcard options for print and direct mail. Saturate the neighborhood around your business by direct mailing your postcard to potential customers.

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Want some proof?

In 2020, 12.9% of fundraising came from online donations, according to data in the most recent Blackbaud Institute Charitable Giving Report. It’s a big jump over previous years, likely as a result of COVID-19. But this also means that 87% of giving comes from offline sources – like mail.

Direct Mail Out

So why do nonprofits rely on direct mail and print – especially when digital channels are “free”?

  • In one survey, 67% of Americans said they still preferred printed materials over digital ones
  • According to another survey, 55% of all consumers trust print marketing over any other advertising method
  • Research by Temple University (among others) shows that haptics – the touch and feel of paper – provides a deeper understanding of and engagement with printed materials, such as ads

Another big finding that jumped out from the Temple study is that paper ads engaged viewers for more time than digital ads did. Even more interesting is that when reviewed a week later, test subjects showed a greater emotional response and memory for physical ads.

That last point is important: Direct mail, especially when it’s done well, resonates with people and results in opening donors’ hearts – and checkbooks.Here are some nonprofit direct mail practices to help make your job easier.

7 Nonprofit Direct Mail Best Practices

1. Mail Envelopes


According to statistics from Who’s Mailing What!, more than 90% of nonprofit fundraising direct mail uses envelopes. With a compelling teaser headline and image, envelopes attract the prospect’s attention and get themselves opened.

All of the classic direct mail elements – letter, lift note, inserts, brochure, reply/order form, and even the reply envelope – can work together to build your case for donating money to or joining a cause.

2. Maximize Your Data

Many, if not most, nonprofits have to be super careful when spending money when prospecting for donors or communicating with current ones. Wherever you spend that money – online, offline, or ideally, a combination of both – you need to have the best data possible at the core of your efforts.

Here’s how:

  • Make certain that your data is current, complete, and error-free with hygiene practices and a CRM system that helps you create profiles of your members and contributors
  • Use segmentation to find your audience as well as focus on specific groups to tailor your messaging across channels (including mail) and improve the donor experience.
  • One-to-one personalization lets you treat each donor as an individual based on what you know about them – their demographics, giving history, and more. Variable Data Printing (VDP) helps your mail piece improve both the response rate and donation amounts by using customized copy and images.

3. Focus on Donor Retention

It’s obviously vital to have new donors and members join your nonprofit. Because it costs more to acquire them, it should follow that keeping the ones you have deserves more attention than many nonprofits actually give it.

As part of a commitment to prioritize – and improve – your retention fundraising, your direct mail should:

  • Thank donors for every gift, regardless of channel
  • Help your brand and its mission or messaging stand out
  • Provide information on the impact of their contribution, such as with a print newsletter
  • Communicate regularly about the needs of your beneficiaries

Depending on donor preferences, you may want to use email for renewals or other donor communications that provide a day-to-day view of activities. There’s also an opportunity to rightsize some of your campaigns – such as special appeals or high-end segments – with an elaborate direct mail piece.

4. Enlist Their Nonfinancial Help

Asking for money is never easy. But when you reach the right people – people committed to your cause – they can help you in other ways as well.

Some ideas:

  • Social media call-outs (e.g., “Follow Us on Facebook; Check out our YouTube channel”)
  • Volunteer their time
  • Include or promote branded premiums (e.g., stickers, t-shirts, tote bags)

5. Make It Easy to Read

Avoid the temptation to throw in jargon or too many statistics. They’ll only distract or annoy the reader, and that means you’ll lose them.

Think of your direct mail appeal as a conversation between two friends, not a bland, boring grant application.

Instead of long blocks of big words, keep your copy sparse.


And emotional (read on for more about that).

If pictures and simple color charts can help bolster your argument, throw them in, too.

6. Drive Response With Emotions

People make nearly all decisions based on emotional factors, not on reason. Of course, you can back up your argument with facts, but to be most persuasive, consider the emotional pain (or pleasure) points of your target audience.

The 7 main emotional copy drivers are:

  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Salvation
  • Exclusivity
  • Flattery
  • Greed

These motivators – some more than others – help you make the case for your message, especially when backed up with powerful images and graphics.

7. Tell a Story

Remember what I said about your appeal being a conversation? Your nonprofit fundraising direct mail piece starts with a greeting or introduction, builds rapport, makes a case, and then asks for money.

But an important part of a conversation is about telling stories, and listening to them. Even though the recipient has probably never met the sender before, they can develop an emotional connection if they are made to care about a challenge, choice, triumph, or achievement.

With a story, you can help answer 2 main questions the recipient is asking:
“Do I care about this? What can I do about it?”

That second question is crucial. As much as you want to talk about the greatness of your nonprofit, keep all that to a minimum. Instead, make it clear that the donor – not you – is the hero who can save the day.

Every Door Direct Mail Us Postal Service

Wrapping it up

Remember: people give to people. Treat your donors well. Be honest and sincere – and don’t be afraid to ask for their money. Together with these nonprofit direct mail best practices, you’ll be on your way to building a sustainable base for your organization.

At, we work with nonprofits to bring their direct mail campaigns to life, from design and data management to printing and mailing. Reach out to our team to talk about how we can work together on your fundraising campaign!

Get an Address List

There are many keys to a successful mailing: knowing what your message is, knowing who your audience is, and getting your message delivered to your audience. If you do not already have an address list for your message, then you need to put together, buy, or rent a mailing list.

The Postal Service does not keep a database of residential or business customers and does not sell address lists. However, the Postal Service has products and services that help mailers check and standardize their addresses (for instance, whether 123 MAIN is a ST, AVE, or DR) and keep their lists up to date (for example, providing ancillary services to let mailers know if addressees have moved).

Direct Mail Meaning

There are companies that collect and sell information about consumers and businesses. You can buy or rent a mailing list from those companies. Look in the yellow pages under 'lists' or 'mailing lists' or do an on-line search for list providers in your area.

Refer here to learn more about how a list provider can help you target your exact audience.

Postal Service Every Door Direct Mail

Whether you maintain your own list or buy or rent a list, the next important step is to check the accuracy of the addresses on your mailing list.

  • Frequently, list vendors also offer other mailing services. You may want to ask your list vendor. for help with other aspects of your mailing.
  • Ask list providers about the National Deliverability Index (NDI) of the list you're buying.