How brochures kill direct mail fundraising

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Hey — how’d you like to know an easy way to increase the cost of your direct mail fundraising — decreasing response at the same time?

Here’s how: Add a brochure to the package. It works like magic to make things worse!

Brochures almost always depress response in direct mail. (There are, no doubt, exceptions to this. But they are rare. I’ve never seen a brochure improve results. Or even stay even with a non-brochure mailing.)

Here’s a fairly typical brochure. It was in a mailing from The International Rescue Committee. It’s a good example of why brochures do exactly opposite of what we intend for them.

Ircbrochurepanel


  • Brochures aren’t personal. Direct mail fundraising is all about make a person-to-person connection. Think about it: Would you consider a stranger who hands you a brochure someone likely to become a friend?
  • Brochures may be distracting. Brochures have color and photos. That can draw donors away from the active ingredients you’d rather they pay attention to, such as the reply device.
  • Brochures aren’t about donors. Theoretically, they could be, but they never are. Brochures are created out of the need to puff up and explain organizations. This brochure is a prime example. It’s all about the achievements of the organization — we vaccinated, we trained, we gave, we created, we assisted, we counseled. The only you statement sneaks in on the back panel: Donations from humanitarians like you allow us to… That’s bad fundraising.

If you want to improve your results, test your package with no brochure. Most likely, your numbers will improve. (And you’ll lower the cost too!) I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but I’ve never seen a brochure that improved direct mail response.

Here’s the rest of that brochure, in case you’d like to see an organizational brag-fest (click to enlarge):

Ircbrochurefront

Ircbrochureback

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Comments

6 responses to “How brochures kill direct mail fundraising”

  1. Hi! We use brochures to report results on projects we supported thanks to our donors. Maybe a stupid question but how do you then report results to your donors if you can’t do it with a brochure? Or should you then take it for granted that you will always have to spend more money and raise less for reporting than you do for an appeal?

  2. Hi! We use brochures to report results on projects we supported thanks to our donors. Maybe a stupid question but how do you then report results to your donors if you can’t do it with a brochure? Or should you then take it for granted that you will always have to spend more money and raise less for reporting than you do for an appeal?

  3. David Cumming Avatar
    David Cumming

    I’ve not got stats – can’t pretend to.
    However, if brochures do not work, why do so many fundraisers – agencies, clients, consultants alike – continue to use “acquisition” &/or “premium” packs?
    Could be they don’t work, or that they haven’t tested a mere letter accompanied by a donation form. I could believe that a basic letter would work with an older generation, particularly existing donors.

  4. David Cumming Avatar
    David Cumming

    I’ve not got stats – can’t pretend to.
    However, if brochures do not work, why do so many fundraisers – agencies, clients, consultants alike – continue to use “acquisition” &/or “premium” packs?
    Could be they don’t work, or that they haven’t tested a mere letter accompanied by a donation form. I could believe that a basic letter would work with an older generation, particularly existing donors.

  5. Marion: I’d look for any format other than a brochure to report results. The best bet is newsletters, which are story-focused and donor-centered. Even a plain letter that tells a story about results would be better.
    David: I’m not sure if you’re using the terms “acquisition” and “premium” to mean what they mean to me. But the fact that brochures don’t work has no bearing on the efficacy of those two things. Both of which work quite well.

  6. Marion: I’d look for any format other than a brochure to report results. The best bet is newsletters, which are story-focused and donor-centered. Even a plain letter that tells a story about results would be better.
    David: I’m not sure if you’re using the terms “acquisition” and “premium” to mean what they mean to me. But the fact that brochures don’t work has no bearing on the efficacy of those two things. Both of which work quite well.

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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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About the blogger

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.