Direct mail fundraising is a time-tested fundraising technique. At its most basic, direct mail is a technique that sends a large number of letters requesting funding for a project or ministry with expectation that a certain percentage of the people who get the letters will open them, read them, and mail in a check in response to them.
Most parishes do not do direct mail fundraising because of the similarity to the weekly offertory. Some parishes work vendors like Our Sunday Visitor to print out and mail envelopes that can be used with the weekly offertory, but this isn’t quite the same as a direct mail campaign.
Still, direct mail can definitely have a place, and even be a primary form of fundraising for a Diocese, monastery, school, or retreat center.
The essentials of the direct mail campaign:
The list – Someone has to be written on the address label. Your list is absolutely critical to the success of your campaign. This list also has to come from somewhere. I’ll talk about lists elsewhere.
The appeal – What are you sending out? The appeal is another word for the mail piece. It consists of the outer (the envelope), the letter, and the response device (the piece people tear off and send back with their check), and a business reply envelope or BRE.
The clerical system – The success of a direct mail program (which is bigger that a single mailing) depends on having an organized system for dealing with donor responses. Donations must be processed promptly, and thank you letters are critical to the success of the program.
The calendar – How often are you mailing? In all likelihood, you could be reaching out more frequently than you expect. If you have a good list and your letters are really connecting with what your donors are passionate about, they’ll be more receptive to your mail than you expect.
Non-essentials (which might be helpful, but aren’t strictly necessary)
A direct mail vendor – Companies like Russ Reid and RKD Alpha Dog will help you manage and run your direct mail campaign… for a price. Better contractors will help with designing your mail piece, building your list, and designing your campaign strategy.
Premiums – Have you ever gotten address labels around Christmas time from your favorite charity? This is an example of a premium. Premiums are included to encourage people to make a gift. When a charity sends a premium, it can dramatically increase the cost of the mailing, but also have a corresponding increase in response rate (the number of people who give.) You’ll want to do a cost benefit analysis to determine if the increase in gifts justifies the increase in cost.