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.
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.