An Integrated Outreach Strategy: Using Direct Mail and Online Marketing

Thursday, July 3, 2008 | 2:17 PM


In reading through The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently, I came across an interesting article that I thought I would share. This article, by Elizabeth Schwinn, discussed results from a survey on direct mail, confirming that direct mail is still effective, especially for older donors, and will likely continue to be so for the next 10 years. This was good to hear, as I know that many of our grantees rely heavily on direct mail as a major outreach method.

However, the article also points out that the effectiveness of direct mail 20 years from now is debatable. Mark Mellman, a pollster in Washington, notes that the effectiveness of direct mail may decrease over time as younger, more internet-savvy individuals comprise donor bases. He says, "Younger generations, who have been brought up using the Internet, may be less inclined to switch to hand-delivered communications in retirement.... Younger donors are far more likely to respond to online solicitations than direct mail. For example, 22 percent of online donors are under age 40, while only 4 percent of direct-mail donors are that young."

Knowing that different audiences of potential donors may be more comfortable with different outreach methods, we strongly encourage you to use the two in conjunction, especially if direct mail has shown to be effective for your organization. The article points out that organizations not using both outreach approaches “are leaving money on the table," something that your organization definitely wants to avoid! Your group should continue focusing on what works for you now, but also know that your future donors are used to online interactions and may be more comfortable with this. Your outreach strategy may need to shift over time to reach these individuals, perhaps lessening a reliance on direct mail and increasing online efforts.

While most organizations reading this post already are engaged in online outreach (whether through Google Grants and/or other methods), we hope that this article will cause you to stop and re-think your current and future marketing strategies, considering the value of putting more resources into online efforts while still using other effective methods. There is no time like the present to start thinking about how to reach future donors online!