How not to send junk mail

A columnist at Philly.com has done a couple of pieces on the huge piles of direct mail fundraising local people have been getting: Experts on nonprofits explain mailings game. The core point is this: Some people get a lot of mail from nonprofit organizations. Which leads to:

It made me want to know more about why bad things are happening to nice people.

Excuse me, but getting unwanted mail is a “bad thing”? Really now. Losing your job is a bad thing. Having your house foreclosed is a bad thing. Getting a serious disease or losing a loved one are bad things.

Junk mail? I think most people can overcome the trauma. Some sense of proportion would be nice.

Nevertheless, it is something people complain about, so those of us who create these mailings need to pay attention.

And I have a feeling that the real problem isn’t so much the quantity of mail people get. It’s the lack of relevance that’s pouring into their mailbox.

Think about it. Donors just want to help sick people, or hungry children, or animals, or veterans. And suddenly their mailboxes fill up with mail from other organizations. They didn’t sign up to be bought and sold on the list rental market.

The other thing that seems to get their goat — they start getting premiums galore. They can’t see the connection between the cause and the trinket — because for the most part there isn’t any.

Either way, it’s a dose of irrelevancy that raises the complaint. One irrelevant piece of mail is too much mail. A bushel of interesting, useful, relevant mail? That would be a bonanza.

It’s not easy to be relevant all the time to all the donors. It may even be impossible. But if you make sure everything you send has great offers that give donors exciting ways to change the world, interesting stories that touch their hearts, and a look and feel that’s aimed at them (not yourself), you’ll be in better shape.

Then tread lightly (if at all) in the list rental market, and really try to make any premiums or freemiums you’re using are evidently relevant.

Pull all that off, and I bet even the most annoyed, over-mailed donor won’t throw your stuff in the junk mail pile. And when that reporter comes around looking for a salty quote about the deluge of mail — it won’t be about your mail.

Thanks to AFP Blog: Recent News of Note for the tip.


Comments

4 responses to “How not to send junk mail”

  1. Amen to the selling of mailing lists. I have written off organizations permanently that sold my name (pretty obvious — one donation and suddenly everyone on earth starts mailing me). I always ask that a charity not sell my name when I donate, and when I do get requests from organizations that I will not donate to, I let them know. I figure I’m doing them a favor so that they’re not spending money on mailings to me, and it keeps my mailbox less cluttered.

  2. Amen to the selling of mailing lists. I have written off organizations permanently that sold my name (pretty obvious — one donation and suddenly everyone on earth starts mailing me). I always ask that a charity not sell my name when I donate, and when I do get requests from organizations that I will not donate to, I let them know. I figure I’m doing them a favor so that they’re not spending money on mailings to me, and it keeps my mailbox less cluttered.

  3. We agree wholeheartedly with you. We have no idea why nonprofits would send out junk mail or allow any of their employees to send out deluges of email not related to their mission. Certainly seems like bad email marketing habits to us! Email marketing can be a powerful or not-so-powerful (even self-sabotaging!) tool– nonprofit fundraisers just need to know how to make the most use of it.
    http://www.event360.com/blog/three-tips-to-make-the-most-of-your-nonprofit-s-email-marketing/

  4. We agree wholeheartedly with you. We have no idea why nonprofits would send out junk mail or allow any of their employees to send out deluges of email not related to their mission. Certainly seems like bad email marketing habits to us! Email marketing can be a powerful or not-so-powerful (even self-sabotaging!) tool– nonprofit fundraisers just need to know how to make the most use of it.
    http://www.event360.com/blog/three-tips-to-make-the-most-of-your-nonprofit-s-email-marketing/

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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