But if you’re hoping my next line will read, “so direct mail is over”, I will disappoint you. Because it’s not. It’s still the channel with the highest response rates. And people who are the most generous (that is, older people) still prefer it.
https://www.nonprofitmailers.org/nonprofit-mailers-keep-calm-and-send-mail/However, this is not the time to shrug and hope to simply ride it out. You undoubtedly have a budget to meet. You need to keep looking for donors and for gifts.
This is all uncharted territory. I won’t claim to be an expert in this area – no one is. But here are some of the things I would do right now to position my organization for the most success.
Start with your lists
Before you even think about strategy, you need to know what you have to work with. Do you know how many people in your database have given you both email and postal addresses?
People who have volunteered both ways to communicate are usually more committed. So be sure you know who they are.
Then look at those who have given you a postal address but not an email address. Now would be a terrific time to ask for that information. Make the request personal. And frame it as a convenience for the donor as well as for you.
In case of a complete meltdown of the USPS, they still want to hear from you. People may also feel safer right now communicating electronically. Ask.
If you only have email addresses, give those records a good look. Often, we miss the chance to communicate by email because of a typo. Make sure the last part – the domain name – is correct. You don’t want to lose someone because they’re listed as firstname.lastname@example.org!
Be more careful than usual about strategy
You always want to spend the most time and money on the donors most likely to respond. That’s even more true now.
And while email may feel free, it’s really not. This is not the time to send out countless emails without thinking about strategy. How will those emails be received?
Right now in the US, we’re in the midst of a presidential election year. Political email is clogging up our in-boxes. They can play the numbers game – since campaigns have likely collected hundreds of thousands of emails.
Chances are you cannot.
You have to work to gain and maintain donors’ trust. That means communications that are meaningful and personal. That means asks that make sense – and connect to other messaging they may see. Don’t just email constantly because you can. Email to stay in touch, to communicate good information and strong calls to action.
Email as thoughtfully as if you had to apply a stamp.
If you’re mailing, don’t depend on last year’s timeline. Mail early. That probably means you should be thinking about your year-end mailing right now.
Choose a message then amplify it on all channels
Communicate as if donors will see your mail, email, and social media messages – even though you know they likely won’t see everything. Stay relentlessly focused on the ask – what do you want them to do? Repetition is powerful. It also builds trust.
Doing this will also make your life easier. Start with a great direct mail package. Then you can use the same messaging for an email series. And for social media ad campaigns.
Try different subject lines. Change social media headlines. Then track and measure your campaigns
With mail, you won’t necessarily know when it arrives. But you can seed the lists with your address and those of colleagues or board members. Ask them to report as soon as the mailing hits their box.
This is another opportunity to follow up with a phone call for donors at the top of your list. “I sent you a letter a week ago. I know the mail is tricky now, and you are so important to us that I wanted to be sure it arrived.”
Email and social media give you quick feedback. But you have to actually look at the information.
Don’t suffer in silence
Let your local and state representatives know how important the USPS is to your organization! Here’s a good link to find them if you don’t know how to reach them.
This should not be a partisan issue. The U.S. Constitution empowered Congress “to establish post offices and post roads.” We all depend on a working postal service. It’s not a business and was never meant to be. It’s a service for us all.
Make your voice heard!