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Survey Confirms: Direct Mail Still Has Impact

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Aug. 29, 2003) - Direct mail plays an influential role in donors' giving decisions, a new survey shows.

In a survey of 2,000 adults, 59 percent of donors said they were most likely to donate to an organization that they received direct mail from. In addition, 53 percent said they read fundraising and nonprofit direct mail in 2003.

The survey, Customer Focus 2003: Nonprofit, was conducted by Vertis, a marketing and advertising firm headquartered in Baltimore and was released Aug. 12. Findings also showed that personalized mail is the most important factor when donors decide which charity or fundraising mail they open, at 62 percent. Other factors included timing of the mail at 59 percent, a free gift at 32 percent, a special offer at 31 percent and dated material at 30 percent.

A second Vertis survey released in June, 2003 Customer Focus: Direct Marketing, showed that direct mail's impact is on the rise. This year, 46 percent of adults surveyed said they had responded to direct mail advertising in the past 30 days, compared to 34 percent in 2001. The survey showed the greatest increase among young baby boomers, from 36 percent in 2001 to 49 percent in 2003.

Consultant Gwyneth Lister, CFRE, with Accelerated Income Methods in Corte Madera, Calif., and a member of the AFP Golden Gate Chapter, knows how effective direct mail can be for nonprofits.

When people tell Lister direct mail doesn't work, it's often because they haven't tried it enough, she said. She cautions fundraising professionals to not give up after one direct mail effort. In addition, she said, it's important to evaluate each direct mail effort after the mailings are sent out.

'They should be mailing regularly, at least four times a year, to the people who have given in the past,' said Lister, author of Building Your Direct Mail Program: Excellence in Fund Raising. 'The web is great for the organizations that have the name, but for small organizations, they have to build up their constituency one person at a time, and direct mail is a great place to do that.'

Lister reminds fundraisers to ask for donations in each direct mail piece. That may seem obvious, but Lister said she often receives direct mail pieces that detail 'all the wonderful things they're doing, but they forget to say 'we need your support.''

Other findings in the August Vertis survey included:

  • 66 percent of adults planned to make a non-monetary donation, such as time, food or clothing, to a nonprofit in the next year
  • 52 percent of monetary donations went to health organizations, followed by 41 percent to food and hunger groups and 39 percent to children's charities and
  • 70 percent of adults ages 38-57 planned to donate non-monetary items, compared to 57 percent of adults ages 18-25 and 43 percent of adults age 74 and older.

For a copy of the Vertis surveys, see the Customer Focus: Nonprofit study and the Customer Focus: Direct Marketing study.

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