Direct Mail for Non-Profits: It’s Not About Being Cool

Direct-mail-for-non-profits-its-not-about-being-coolIn the world of marketing there are all kinds of new social media platforms that have sprung up over the last few years. Some of them are really cool. And some of them can be really effective when they’re used well with the right audience. 

There’s a tendency, however, to gravitate toward the things that are cool, hip, and new—just because they’re new, and hip, and cool. That’s understandable, but it may not be the right business decision. As marketers, we should always be on the lookout for new ideas. We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things if we think they might work better. The key to successful marketing is not whether something is cool or not—but whether or not it works. 

That’s something that people who do marketing for non-profit organizations know from experience. Sometimes these organizations and their marketing people are portrayed as stodgy, old-fashioned, or unwilling to embrace new ideas. They keep plugging away with old tried-and-true marketing methods such as direct mail. But they don’t do it because they’re not hip or because they’re afraid to try something new.

They do it because it works. 

Many, many non-profits enjoy a rather unique relationship with their constituencies. There is an almost familial connection. And it’s one reason that direct mail works for non-profits. There is a strong element of trust between donors and organizations. One advantage of that relationship is that when a direct mail piece arrives at a donor’s home, it’s not regarded as an invasion. It’s welcome. It will be opened—and read. 

Direct mail is also very familiar. Many donors (particularly those who are a bit older) know and expect this kind of communication from the organization they support. It’s how they’ve always interacted with the organization—and it’s comfortable. 

Does that mean non-profits shouldn’t try new methods? Of course not. For one thing, organizations need to replace older supporters with newer ones. And the newer supporters may be more comfortable with newer platforms and methods. But if a non-profit organization has a significant segment of donors who are more comfortable with direct mail, it would be foolish to jettison those efforts to that particular group. It’s not about being cool—it’s about being effective. 

Non-profits (like any other business or organization) need to explore new venues and they need to integrate their direct mail efforts with online technologies. They need to test new ideas to see which ones may work. But they shouldn’t abandon something that works simply because it’s not new or hip. 

That’s really not cool.

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