4 Tried-and-True Tips for Effective Direct Mail Solicitation

4 Tried-and-True Tips for Effective Direct Mail Solicitation

Marketing and solicitation for nonprofits can often seem irrelevant compared to the overall mission you’re pursuing, but it is actually an immensely important task for any charitable organization. Most nonprofits rely on donors’ contributions to bankroll the organization’s efforts, and the only way to get these donations is through effective marketing and donor outreach. One of the most successful methods for nonprofits being direct mail. 

Direct mail is a transformative method of fundraising for nonprofits who want to directly pursue their supporters. In addition, utilizing direct mail is a non-invasive way to call on donors and prospects to support your nonprofit. Direct mail appeals are the backbone of fundraising for most nonprofits in the U.S., and these efforts provide a solid structure of communication between donors and the organizations they support. 

Though these may sound simple, sending effective appeals can be a difficult task. That’s why we’re going to discuss a few tried and true tips that will help set your campaign apart from the others. Consider these best practices for effective direct mail fundraising appeals:

  1. Leverage strategic audience segmentation
  2. Keep your volunteers in the loop
  3. Personalize your direct mail appeals
  4. Work with a direct mail agency

Ready to learn how you can transform your direct mail campaign? Let’s get going!

1. Leverage strategic audience segmentation

One of the first ways to build an effective direct mail campaign is to maintain a strong relationship with your audience through one simple method: segmentation. Segmentation is a method of marketing that encapsulates categorizing your audience into groups of similar interests in order to further personalize your campaign. 

Now, if you’re wondering how to segment your own audience, here are four easy steps to get started:

  • Utilize donor management software. The first thing you can do to segment your direct mail audience is to utilize donor management software. A nonprofit CRM, or constituent relationship management system, allows you to increase the personalized aspects of your letters and organizes your donors based on their demographics, donation history, location, or other relevant characteristics. 
  • Categorize your audience. Now that you have a CRM, you can effectively segment your audience. When doing this, be sure that you are categorizing your audience into like-minded groups. Thus, begin finding commonalities between your audience members. For example, if you decide to segment mature donors, you could group together older generations in order to push a more targeted message to your audience.
  • Nail your fundraising asks. The most important component of a great question is the language you use to make the ask. When crafting your donation appeal, focus on the donor instead of the organization. While this may seem counterintuitive at first, this makes the donor feel as if they are the hero in your organization’s story. Your donor’s contributions count, so make sure they feel as though they are truly making a difference no matter how big or small their donation is. 
  • Collect response data. Though nailing a great ask may seem easy enough, you also have to make sure that your specific appeal aligns with your donor’s ideals and abilities to give. In order to do so, you must complete the final step: donor data collection. If you have categorized your donor’s correctly, they should respond well to your ask. However, it is also important to ensure that they actually resonated with your appeal and went through with the donation.

Then, after walking through each of these steps, you can continue to adjust and revise the process, ultimately leading to extremely targeted donation appeals. As you know, the more specific an appeal is to its recipient, the more likely they are to make a donation.

2. Keep your volunteers in the loop

Your volunteers are key supporters of your mission, and as such, you should include them in things like your mailing list or other outreach efforts. This way, you can keep them in the loop about how impactful their support is—whether they’re making financial contributions, in-kind gifts, or volunteering their precious time. 

Furthermore, including follow-ups after a particular event or volunteer task is a great way to keep these individuals in the loop and increase supporter retention. After all, you want these dedicated supporters to keep coming back to help pursue your mission time and time again.

Another way to increase retention is by diversifying your volunteering options. Volunteers are more likely to donate to your cause than non-volunteers since they already care about your cause. With this in mind, if you increase your volunteer outreach by incorporating direct mailings, you have a higher likelihood of the recipient volunteering, which ultimately leads to an increased chance of donation. 

3. Personalize your direct mail appeals

Personalization is another powerful fundraising strategy that can bring any direct mail appeal to the next level. Specifically, these efforts ensure that the appeal an individual receives is unique to that person and different than every other mailing you sent out.

Some simple ways to personalize your fundraising appeals include:

  • Addressing your recipients by their preferred name
  • Acknowledging previous donations they have made
  • Wishing them a happy birthday 

In doing this, you show the donor that you recognize their efforts to be a part of your cause and you care about them as an individual. 

One way to create an even more personal and engaging ask is by incorporating storytelling strategies into your fundraising campaign. There are many ways to tell a story that effectively appeals to your audience, but one way to do so is simply by sharing the path of your donor’s contributions. For example, if a supporter gave $100 to help fund an upcoming youth outreach initiative, you can follow up on that gift with specific details about the new program. Even better, you can tell the donor a real story about a child who was impacted by their gift! 

4. Work with a direct mail agency

Though these previous tips can help you have a successful campaign, you don’t have to jump into the deep end alone. There are many great direct mail platforms and agencies that have tons of experience with organizations big and small. These fundraising experts can help you tackle everything discussed in this article, and more! 

And while the benefits can be significant, it’s important to recognize that these agencies are not one size fits all. For example, some organizations may choose to conduct their direct mail campaigns in-house and find great success on their own. On the other hand, some organizations find that working with a dedicated direct mail platform is essential to the success of their campaign. 

When selecting an agency, make sure that they provide all the tools that your organization needs, and will merge well with your core values and principles. If you find an agency that suits your needs, don’t hesitate to leverage their resources and experience. It may very well take your organization (and its fundraising efforts) to new heights!


All in all, direct mail is a useful tool to implement within your marketing strategy that can transform your organization. When you integrate this powerful channel alongside the tips and tricks mentioned in this article, you get to reap benefits such as increased donations, powerful storytelling opportunities, and increased donor retention. Good luck!

This was a guest post contributed by Grant at GivingMail.

Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.

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Matt Hugg

Matt Hugg is the president of Nonprofit.Courses.

See his bio here.