The modern trend for needing everything to be instant is definitely putting pressure on Direct Mail volumes. Here at DM Focus we now email out our invoices and most invoices now arrive via email to print too. But what about using this media in the fundraising sector for recruitment and retention - is that still useful?
Many sectors have dropped their mailing volumes over the last ten years, turning to other channels. But for our charity clients, direct mail is still an important mix for fundraising - but why? There are some supporters that do not like it,that is apparent. Those recruited via door to door, face to face, telemarketing, outdoor and also DRTV all very rarely give when asked via direct mail. We also see some types of donors not giving via this method, mainly eventers. I would argue though, the reason for this is the profile of the audience recruited via these media streams. All are younger individuals, living much busier lives and probably just put all their 'junk mail' into the recycling bin, unopened.
But there is still an older audience out there that loves to receive post. Those individuals aged over 55 who firstly do not have the time pressures of managing a family as they are starting to leave the nest and then those a little older who have retired and actually receiving post is another highlight of the day. Yes response rates are still a little off what we received in 2007 and 2008 but many of our charities are still seeing response rates over 1% for cause, over 2% for raffle and over 2.5% for a prize draw recruitment. Then for warm, again responses are a little down, but still when you look at the overall picture the five year return is looking healthy.
One of the other factors that many charities forget to appreciate is what these donors also do. It is much more likely that these donors will leave you a legacy and as they are older, realistically, they are more likely to die sooner. Therefore, you are going to get that legacy more quickly. Looking at a few charity files recently, it is not unusual to expect on average £1 of income from a legacy from each £1 income recruited via the individual giving programme. Obviously not all will give the £1, but 1 in 100 will give a legacy and with the average legacy being over £15,000 that is enough to make that theory work.
What about email? Much cheaper I hear for a direct contact. We have found this to be a good tool for reminders and a warm up for warm appeals, but as yet is still not good enough to replace the direct mail letter. For cold, it’s very difficult to get this to work. With so many emails hitting us everyday people are very selective and getting individuals to donate to a charity they are not aware of via an email has proven to be a very tough ask.
Telephone would be the only other direct route that might be considered but it has so many issues. Contact rates, as people are not in all of the time and the aggressiveness of the media both make this less attractive to many fundraising organisations.
So will direct mail die? Not yet in my opinion. EU directives might make it harder, but for our sector I can see this route of fundraising lasting for some time to come.