Why I Gave: Direct Mail Strategy Ideas for Non-Profits

If you are like me, you believe it is important to give back to your community by providing worthy non-profits with financial support. But because you give, you get lots of solicitations, and over time, you start to see patterns in the direct mail. Some are very business-like and formal, while others take a story-based approach to show how the nonprofit is helping. Others include some small gift, like a notepad or address stickers, to invoke the principle of reciprocity: I receive a positive action (a gift), and I’m compelled to respond with another positive action (supporting the organization).

Recently, I got a solicitation from the Atlanta Community Food Bank, one of my hometown organizations. It was one piece in a stack of mail, and nothing about the envelope, other than the logo, made it stand out. In 2020, I gave more to the food bank because, in Atlanta, a lot of people make their living from hospitality and tourism – and we all know what happened to that in 2020!

The solicitation came in a normal, letter-sized envelope, but it felt more substantial in my hand. When I opened it, the brightly-colored insert instantly caught my eye. It turned out to be a four-page newsletter, folded into letter size. In the moment, I just gave it a quick scan, but one glance of the content was enough to convince me to open my wallet and donate. The newsletter seemed to have enough value, though, that I set it aside and promised myself I’d take a closer look at it later in the day.

Later in the day, I was at my desk, working on a direct mail project for a client. The newsletter was still lying on my desk, and when I picked it up, I had an “aha!” moment. The newsletter was the catalyst that made me think about the Atlanta Food Bank and decide to give. It was that content that caught my eye and opened my wallet – but why? After all, 62% of mail received by American households is marketing mail, so a direct mailer has to really be special to stand out from the crowd.

The newsletter had several traits that made it particularly attention-grabbing and appealing: it was visually attractive, had images to make me aware of what my dollars would do, and educated me about the good done by the organization. All of these things increased my commitment to give.

Strategies like this are great for non-profits, but it also works for other organizations. The average lifespan of a piece of physical direct mail is 17 days, so give recipients something to really spend time with! Put a newsletter in a letter and get the word out. After all, everyone has content — repurposing it always makes sense, saves time, and tells a unified story of your brand.

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