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Q&A: How To Raise Thousands With Five Pieces of Paper

GG+A Vice President Adrian Salmon will present a day-long workshop on effective direct mail philanthropy campaigns on Thursday, April 28, at the Caledonian Club in London. His presentation is offered by the Institute of Development Professionals in Education, the UK’s leading schools’ development membership organization. Here, Adrian offers a few insights in advance of his presentation.

Q: Why do so many charities still spend so much on direct mail? Isn’t online much more effective?

A: Direct Mail still works better than almost any other means of recruiting and retaining supporters. Despite the growth in online, online still only accounts for 6 percent of the total philanthropy given by individuals to charity. Email inboxes are saturated, and making your case for support stand out – or even be read – is incredibly difficult. Direct mail cuts through the clutter and has an overall response rate of 4 percent for all kinds of marketing – in fact it is still outperforming all digital channels combined by about 600 percent!

Q: What’s responsible for the difference? Why is direct mail so much more effective?

A: All effective communications start with an understanding of your audience. With direct mail, you have the ability to target your appeal by assessing and segmenting your mailing list of recipients, your audience. The warmer the list, the better. A warm list includes those people whom you have a relationship with. Cherish and nurture these people. Find out as much as you can about them, and then talk to them as individuals. Having a clear sense of who your firmest supporters are enables you to write appeals that are of interest and value to them. Remember, you are taking up their time and asking them to invest: The message must focus on them and what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them.

Q: So, there’s no role for online?

A: Ah, not the case at all! Effective direct mail programmes incorporate a multichannel approach. Ideally, organizations are framing direct mail appeals as part of an integrated mini-campaign, one that includes rich content, such as videos and engaged discussion, via online channels. To be sure, printed direct mail pieces must be very clear about giving donors choices in how to provide support and learn more. Simply put, this means making mail, phone, and online resources front and center.

Q: What are common elements in effective direct mail appeals?

A: They move and motivate the readers to act. They tell a compelling story that holds the reader’s attention, connects him or her with the charity’s mission, and drives that person to action – to give to that charity in order to make the world better. To accomplish all of that, appeals must be creative and they must draw on the reader’s empathy. Too often, we see direct mail that is full of statistics and entirely devoid of a case for caring. The role of emotion is critical. Finally, I always say that long copy sells. If yours is a story worth telling, and you’re doing so in a compelling way, then your audience will stay with you. And they will support the cause.

For more than 20 years, Adrian Salmon has helped educational, cultural, and community organizations advance their missions by raising more funds through annual giving. He can be reached at: ASalmon@grenzglier.com.

This piece was originally published as a LinkedIn Pulse post by Adrian Salmon. 

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About the author

Adrian Salmon

Vice President

Adrian Salmon, Vice President, GG+A Europe, brings nearly 20 years of direct-marketing fundraising experience in the higher education, arts and culture, and wider not-for-profit spheres. His particular expertise includes direct mail fundraising, annual giving program management, and management of contributions from integrated mail and online appeals. Most recently, Adrian was…