Don’t forget direct mail!

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Alex Comfort, CFRE

Recently I convened a group of 6 fundraisers who held a position of “Director of Development” or some title like that.  Four were fairly new to the profession, and two were experienced senior veterans.  At the end of our session one of the new folks asked: “What are your experiences with the best way to reach people?  Direct mail, email, or social media?


In the ensuing discussion, I was surprised that it was all about social media.  Everything from mass solicitations to “save the date” cards for special events was covered, but no mention of direct mail was made.  In my work with clients and in my teaching one word is key these days: SEGMENTATION.


In order to reach people, especially when we are talking about our whole donor base, we need to use different approaches depending on the age of the donor group.  That’s another discussion for another time.  But we need not to forget direct mail.



  1. Trailing Baby Boomers and older tend to prefer something they can hold.
  2. A donor who gives through one method (mail, email, phone, crowd funding, etc.) tends to prefer the same method in the future.
  3. You can enlist volunteers to assist with the time-consuming aspects of direct mail (copying, folding, stuffing, stamping).
  4. You can test various approaches with types of envelopes, length of messages, the P.S., or other aspects quite easily.
  5. Direct mail has produced outstanding results over the years since the 1970’s when it was pioneered by Covenant House in New York.

In short, learning the best uses of modern technology for solicitation is very important for all of us in the future.  But do not forget to use direct mail because, for the next 15 years, your survival will be more secure with a variety of methods, including direct mail.

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