Direct Mail for Nonprofits, Part II, 4 Tips How to Do It

In Direct Mail for Nonprofits, Part I, we wrote about how direct mail is a good tool for non-profits. Many organizations in the non-profit sectors have begun to rely on digital and social media marketing to get their messages out to the masses.  While there is no argument that these methods can be useful to the non-profit, studies show that it is a combination of both print and digital working together that is the most effective for any brand, non-profit or not. That said, I’d like to share some successful direct mail tips and techniques to help you better reach donors out in the real world that might not find their way to you in the digital space otherwise.


Design a magalog or newsletter

This is a great tool for non-profits. Dingley published a blog not too long ago about how to determine if a magalog is right for your business (you can read this blog by clicking here). In this blog, we describe the magalog as being a combination of both magazine and catalog.  We explain that “this is often referred to as soft selling because it encompasses a more obscure approach to advertising. There are a couple of ways that the magalog can work for your non-profit.


 Use a refined mailing list

This is a tip that is applicable to any direct mail campaign, but is especially important for the non-profit organization. There are a couple good techniques for refining your mailing list that I would like to share with you:


First you can grow your house file. Using social media, hosting events, and attending relevant tradeshows are all good methods of growing your house file. We actually have an entire blog dedicated to these practices called 3 Creative Techniques to Grow your House-file. Another technique is to purchase a mailing list from a 3rd party company. This technique is helpful when you want to reach outside your core group of customers and rake in new prospects.


Either way, it is important that the people to whom you are mailing are all good potential candidates for contributing to your non-profit.  Besides reaching out to people who have already contributed, how do you know for sure that the people you are mailing to are good candidates? One way you can determine this is by using a Cooperative Database. This is a database of purchasers and their buying behaviors, which especially can be beneficial to non-profits as people more often than not will purchase items that they share an emotional attachment to.



Once you determine who the right individuals are to target, then it becomes important to get to know them as individuals. This is a big one. Why do you think it’s so important for a non-profit to personalize their direct mail campaigns?  Consider this: every individual views the world a little bit different. Retailers must sell product to their prospects by convincing them they are in need of the product they are selling. Non-profits must go one step further than that and convince their prospects why they need to give their money away for little or in (some cases) nothing in return. When is the last time you approached a total stranger on the street and asked them for money and they actually gave it to you? You must sell them your cause. This means you must target their point of caring. Since people care about different things, this is when personalization comes into fruition.


Personalization is done mainly by researching your prospects (as mentioned above, cooperative databases are an effective way to get to know your prospects) and then segmenting them into demographics using the information you gather. Demographics such as age, gender, geographic location, income, and marital status are just a few bits that can help you better personalize your direct mail campaigns.


For more ideas on how to better target your audience check out our white paper: Target Your Audience and Boost Performance.


Be even more personal

Last, what do you think should happen after a campaign? Well, let’s put it this way: don’t take me out on a date if you’re not going to call me after.  Following up with your contributors is a sure way to formulate a long term relationship. This is especially important for firs-time donors. Here are some techniques to help you keep in touch with your donors:

  • Write a thank you letter
  • Send a gift in the mail, even a small gift goes a long way
  • Ask your donors for some personal information and publish personal stories in your magalog
  • If the first three are too costly after you already invested so much in a direct mail campaign, consider following up by e-mail (which you should do no matter what) or send “Thank You” notes via Twitter and Facebook.


There are many more things that can be done to ensure a successful campaign, including testing your mail list, and measuring your return on investment. For information about this, check out our blog But…Wait! What About the Data. At this point I hope to have brought you to a point where you can see the total value in a direct mail campaign for your non-profit organization. If you have any question or would like to know how to get started, feel free to get in touch! As always, feel free to comment below and share!

About the Author: Jim Gibbs

Vice President of Sales & Marketing at The Dingley Press. Jim has been with Dingley since 2002 and lives in Maine near our Lisbon, Maine plant location.