Should you consider address labels in your fundraising?

Yesterday, we looked at address-label fundraising and the frequent error people make about them: I don’t like them, so they don’t work, and they’re a stupid way to raise funds.

Address labels can work, and often do. Simply writing them off because you hate them would be a big mistake, a classic “everybody-is-exactly-like-me” fallacy.

Labels aren’t for everyone, and not the right choice all the time. But here’s what I can tell you about them:


  • Address labels and other “freemiums” (things sent to donors or prospective donors up-front and unrequested) are common in direct mail. That means many lists on the rental market are built with freemiums, so they’re receptive to them. It’s self-perpetuating and widespread.
  • Freemiums typically generate higher response, but lower average gift than mailings without freemiums.
  • In some cases, the equation is not favorable: The average gift is so low that even the higher volume of donors doesn’t yield a successful fundraising program. To know if it’s really working, you need to look at the projected long-term value of freemium donors.
  • Part of the success equation for labels is this: When you increase the number of donors coming in, even at a lower average gift, you get more of the small cohort who upgrade into major donors and/or leave bequests.

If your response rates have dropped to the point the your program is not financially sound, you should look into address-labels or other freemiums in direct mail. Falling response rates are common across our industry. Labels might rescue you.

If the only reason you’re not considering them is “nobody uses address labels any more” or “they’re a waste of money” or “they’re stupid” — you’re living in a fantasy world. None of those things are true. You need to get real and look at them in a fact-based way.

On the other hand, if you’re doing fine without them, I wouldn’t bother.


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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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