Direct Mail Is Not Dead | npENGAGE

Direct Mail Is Not Dead

By on Jan 11, 2010


Direct mail is not dead and I can prove it. In January of 2009, I started a little project to collect every single piece of direct mail that I received from nonprofit organizations. By the time December 31st rolled around the experiment turned into a mound of mail.

This past weekend I put them all out on a 4×6 rug that really ties the room together. There are well over 100 pieces of mail from annual reports to appeals to magazines to post cards to address labels to calendars to posters to renewal notices to thank you messages to coins. All different shapes, sizes, formats, colors, and printing techniques.

Nonprofit Direct Mail

Like all fundraising and marketing efforts — some are done well and some aren’t. Some of the direct marketing mailings that I received were clearly part of a well segmented and strategically planned effort. Others were more haphazard, like the nonprofit that sent me the same mailing six times. I have seen the exact same mistakes made with email or online channels too. It’s less about the channel being used and more about how well things are being done.

Direct mail isn’t dead, but single channel communication is. That goes for email too! You are wasting time and money if you only use a single channel to acquire, engage, and cultivate supporters. The key to success is getting these channels to co-exist as part of your overall fundraising strategy.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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