3 Strategies for Nonprofit Messages that Stand Out in Donors’ Mailboxes

3 Strategies for Nonprofit Messages that Stand Out in Donors’ Mailboxes

When Trish Witkowski presented her “Rock the Mailbox” seminar at The Badger Group in early March, she covered the full process of creating an effective direct mail campaign. The three phases she covered to help rock your donors’ mailboxes were:

1. Strategy
2. Format
3. Analysis

Use this three-phase approach to create direct mail appeals for your nonprofit that stand out in a sea of mail. Here is how you can begin differentiating your organization’s message with donors:

Speak Directly to Segmented Donor Audiences

The foundation of an effective direct mail campaign is your audience strategy. In fact, the costliest mistakes you can make in a direct mail campaign is sending the wrong message to the wrong audience at the wrong time.

So, who are your audiences? Here are some common donor segments:

  • New Donors
  • Active Donors
  • Lapsed Donors
  • Major Donors

Are you speaking to each of these groups in the same way? Maybe your nonprofit message is perfect for active donors – donors who understand your mission and consistently support your organization.

But what about a new donor or a lapsed donor? Does your standard message speak to these audiences?

Take new donors for example. New donors are vitally important to your nonprofit. You must constantly fill your donor funnel with newly acquired donors and turn them into repeat givers. Nonprofit messages to new donors should be different than messages to your active donors. It’s a bit like dating – you must court your new donors in order to get that second “date.”

Develop a strategy for your new donors. Create nonprofit messages specifically for this audience and integrate them into your regular appeals as variable text or as a separate version all together.

Create nonprofit messages to donors at the relationship level – they will notice and appreciate the personalized, one-to-one communication.

Mix It Up with Creative Formats

You can make your direct mail pieces more engaging for donors through unique opening mechanisms, visual tricks, sensory elements, paper, and color. Unique formats only work when they make sense for your nonprofit message – you can’t force it. However, there are simple ways to get creative with format and stand out to donors.

  • Use color envelopes: Do you always send your direct mail appeals in white envelopes? Why not try a color? Play around with a color from your organization’s color palette.
  • Change up donor renewal packages: A lot of nonprofits use their first appeal of the new year to renew donors. Some will send several renewal notices until the donor gives their first gift of the year. If you do something similar and each package looks the same – letter, detached reply device, etc. – try mixing it up with each package. For example, try an attached reply device on your second renewal notice.
  • Try different folds: If you send a brochure to new donors, consider a unique fold for the piece. Iron cross folds are very popular right now.
  • Turn your direct mail piece into a freemium: Trish shared a fun example of a direct mail piece that folded out into a poster. The poster included minimal branding, making it perfect for people who shared in the organization’s area of interest to be compelled to keep and hang the piece.

Test Constantly!

As you experiment with audience strategies and unique formats, it’s important to do so with a testing strategy in place. The last thing you want is for a change to adversely affect donations. A/B testing allows you to figure out if the audience or format strategy you are considering will be effective.

To run a clean A/B test, make sure to change only one variable. Don’t try to test a new format and targeted language at the same time – you won’t know which element made the difference.

A typical testing ratio is 80/20 – 80 percent of your list gets the control version and 20 percent receives the test. Let’s say you want to test envelope color. 80 percent of your list will receive their direct mail appeal in the same envelope you’ve always used. 20 percent will receive your test envelope. When analyzing the results, you’ll look for which version performed better. Whichever version it is becomes your new control.

Download our handout, A/B Testing for Nonprofits Made Easy


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *