5 reasons not to send more fundraising mail

Last week I made the case that you are likely not sending enough direct mail.

Today, I want to look at some of the possible reasons you should not increase your direct mail — or maybe even cut back.

  1. You don’t have enough donors. Direct mail thrives on scale. The more you send, the more affordable it gets — per piece. I hesitate to define “not enough donors,” but somewhere below a thousand, it’s hard to make direct mail fundraising work. I hasten to add that I’ve seen charities make that leap from too few to enough donors to make mail sustainable through smart work, patience, and an investment mindset.
  2. You don’t have the right kind of donors. If a large portion of your donors are tribute donors, event donors, in-kind donors, or a few other kinds you will struggle to make direct mail work no matter how good it is.
  3. You don’t have the human resources to handle an increase. Direct mail is a lot of work. If you have a small staff that just can’t keep up with added direct mail and all their other duties, now may not be the time to increase. Outsourcing may be a solution, but DM takes time even if you do that.
  4. You don’t have much to say. Some organizations are story-rich. They have a lot of amazing things to talk to their donors about. Some are not. If your ability to find specific things to talk to donors about is because of the nature of your work, you might not do well to increase direct mail.
  5. You increased and your net revenue and/or donor retention dropped. I’ve never seen this happen first-hand, but it’s possible. If it happens, it’s a sign that your donors don’t support a higher level of direct mail.

Here are some common bad reasons organizations cut or decide not to increase direct mail

  • Board members say we send too much. If you send more than zero direct mail campaigns, board members may object. Their sense of too much means nothing in the real world of fundraising.
  • We’re really tired of doing direct mail. Here’s a weird secret: If you’re not getting a little bit tired of your fundraising (any channel) you’re not doing it right.
  • We got some complaints. Don’t let complainers set strategy. Complaints are inevitable, and the more you mail — and the more effective your mail is — the more complaints you will get.
  • Donor fatigue. This does not exist. It’s an excuse, not a measurable reality.


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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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