Using direct mail and storytelling for nonprofit fundraising

Nonprofits must be creative in their efforts to get donors to support their foundational mission.
Date Published
10/17/2014

For a 501(c)(3) organization to ensure that its foundational mission can be met, it needs the financial support of outside donors. However, nonprofit fundraising can be extremely challenging. To be successful, a charitable group must not only convince someone to contribute financially, but to do it on a consistent basis. Developing strong giving pipelines requires consistent effort. Cutting corners can cause an individual to stop giving altogether or lead them to give their financial support to another organization.

Because of this, charitable groups must take steps to ensure that when they do deploy a nonprofit fundraising campaign it is not only compelling, but that the message reaches as many as people as possible. This can be done by deploying it on multiple channels using a number of different strategies.

Direct mail remains effective, but requires proper planning
Despite how technology has reshaped the world we live in, especially when it comes to communication, methods that seem outdated are still highly effective. Many nonprofits still rely on direct mail campaigns to spread the word about their missions and get people to donate. Yes, email and social media campaigns are both advantageous, but the benefits of using the mail are many. It just takes a little strategizing to deliver the best results.

A recent article from Third Sector Today highlighted ways in which a 501(c)(3) group can effectively utilize direct mail to bring in donations.

Arguably the most important consideration that needs to be made is with respect to the overall cost of direct mail. Nonprofits need to not only pay for postage, but the printing of materials that will be sent to both current and potential donors. One of the ways to make this process financially feasible is to stick to general mailing best practices.

Ensuring that mailers are of the right size and weight to keep postage costs low is ideal. Another good idea is determining who the recipients will be. Sending materials to both can be an expensive undertaking and charitable groups may have to experiment by sending information to both groups to gauge which is more responsive.

The importance of a good story
Generally speaking, to get someone to donate financially to a nonprofit, they have to be compelled to do so. Typically, people give money to a causes that elicit an emotional response. It is for this reason that any good nonprofit fundraising campaign contains a compelling story.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, effective storytelling can be done digitally using video or photos. It can also be accomplished in a written format that can be included in a direct mail campaign or hosted on a nonprofit’s website. However, creating content that tugs at the heartstrings of a potential or even current donor is a must.

Third Sector Today suggested that one of the elements included in storytelling should be an illustration of where a contributor’s dollars are actually going. Telling someone how their money will be used and including it in the fundraising narrative will help drive increased donations by encouraging people to lend their financial support.

While raising money in today’s climate is not easy, it isn’t impossible. Nonprofits need to be creative in their approaches and maximize opportunities to tell their story to potential donors in as many ways as possible. Doing so will not only encourage more people to give, but it also has the potential to open up new donation pipelines. Yes, a one-time gift is always helpful. But for a charitable organization to truly make an impact and fulfill its foundational mission, it will need consistent and consistent support from donors to accomplish this goal. 

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