Direct mail has long been the preferred communication channel in the charity sector. There are many reasons for this, from it’s traditional simplicity that resonates with its target audience to it’s ability to engage with recipients in a way that perhaps digital mediums are less successful in doing.
Whilst it’s undeniable that the increase in online donations, coupled with more stringent regulations on and around the sharing and mining of data, have impacted direct mail in recent years; it remains the most effective way to engage your target audience and spread awareness for your cause.
Of course there are some challenges that Direct Mail faces in the Charity sector, most notably the well publicised fines received for breaching data protection laws on ‘wealth screening’ and the sharing of data between charities, but unlike some other challenges many industries face, these are completely avoidable with proper care and due diligence. If your databases are well maintained and audited, with a clear and transparent data trail on where the data was sourced with proof of consent and you are aware of exactly where and with who your data is shared, there is absolutely no cause for concern. Essentially it’s just good practice to ensure your data is first and foremost compliant with the most up to date regulations but also as accurate and current as possible. The cost of sending to data records that have moved address or ‘gone away’ may seem insignificant over the course of one or two campaigns but when you consider your databases as a whole and multiply that over the course of a year, it really does add up.
Additionally, the impending GDPR regulations needn’t be considered ‘The big bad wolf’; rather an opportunity to streamline your data processes and focus on your postal spend. The changes are imminent and will affect everyone, so better to prepare and be ready for them come May 2018.
Another potential hurdle for charities is the recently implemented Fundraising Preference Service, which in essence allows the public to block communications from charities they no longer wish to be contacted by. In line with the forthcoming GDPR changes, it’s very much pushing for an ‘opted in’ only format when marketing. Whilst this may sound like a negative development for direct mail, it’s actually an opportunity for charities to closer consider the way they are sending their communications, allowing them to hone in on a much more targeted approach. After all, a ‘blanket’ direct mail campaign to cold recipients will undoubtedly harvest some donations for your charity, but when compared to a targeted campaign to an engaged target audience who are invested in your cause and story, the results will be relatively meagre. The importance of a regularly cleansed and audited database can’t be stressed enough. It reduces your postal costs by eliminating records that have decayed and are no longer current whilst also allowing you to mine your data and identify patterns or trends that will further benefit your fundraising efforts. Certainly as far as direct mail is concerned, when the audience is right, the response rates will be extremely favourable.
The gradual demise of Direct Mail has long been forecasted, yet the truth is we’ve yet to see it happen. Certainly if you look at the figures in the year leading up to June 2016 in the Charity sector, spending on direct mail increased by 3% to £265 million, representing more than half of the charities combined advertising budget*
Whilst we look to build our existing relationships with donors and attract new ones, it is unquestionable that the landscape is changing and direct mail will have to adapt. But the answer is it can and it will, as it always has done. At Herald Chase we are advocates of a varied and diverse multi-channel marketing strategy, and this should include a nice mix of online and offline offerings.
When looking at how Direct Mail needs to evolve in the charity sector specifically, it’s certainly more effective when building the identity of the charity and telling the story. The donate, donate, donate mailings which offer very little context and are aimed solely at raising money should be replaced with a more considered approach that strives first to curate the journey and create a bond with potential donors. The resulting experience for the recipient is a feeling of being part of something much bigger than a one off donation, establishing a loyal donor who will stay with the charity for years to come.
We provide a number of marketing services to charities, predominantly direct mail but also data handling and manipulation, response handling and print.
If you’d like to talk to us about your fundraising campaigns, or if you feel your databases require a free health check, talk to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively call our office number to speak to one of our experienced team members: 01189 474 888.
*Statistics from Market Research firm Nielsen