Direct Mail: Dead or Alive?

I know, as you read this on your smartphone, laptop, or tablet it might be easy to believe that direct mail is an archaic, dwindling medium. That it no longer engages donors.

But that notion is far from the truth.

The growing digital world has yet to crowd out the print world.  In fact, print may be even more effective today than it was 10-20 years ago, as today our once full mailboxes are empty, and our inboxes are now full to overflowing every day!

The truth is nonprofits around the globe run successful direct mail programs based on direct, traceable gifts alone. But directly traceable income is just scratching the surface…

To begin with, our research, fielded in 2020, shows that 4 of 10 people prefer to respond to direct mail by giving online. Yes, with any given direct mail campaign, 40 percent of the response could come online.

But it is not only the older generations who are motivated by direct mail. Even millennials, like me, give to charities in response to a direct mail appeal – but it is unlikely you’ll see that gift come through a check in the mail (I’ve written exactly three checks in my lifetime).

According to another of our studies, Millennial Donors: They’re Not Who You Think They Are, one out of ten millennials say that they gave to a charity website in response to a direct mail appeal. Not will give or would give, but have given.  They’ve already done it.

All because a letter was delivered to their mailbox.

On top of that, the same study showed that about one-in-two millennial donors say they expect communication through postal mail at least once per month from the charities they support. Yes, you read that right.  Once per month.

When looking at the older generations, it’s even more likely that direct mail would motivate an online gift.  In fact, the same study uncovered that nearly one-third (28 percent) of older donors said they had given online in response to a direct mail appeal.

The bottom line is direct mail’s impact is felt across multiple channels.

While there are more ways to give than ever before, direct mail hasn’t become frail or feeble in its ability to inspire generosity in the hearts of donors.

Check the pulse. Direct mail is alive and well.


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Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.

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