Direct mail marketing has long been the go-to marketing strategy of most nonprofits. And with good reason: According to the FLA Group, more than 7.5 million Canadians donated to a nonprofit in response to a direct mail piece in 2006.

From traditional sales letters to “thump mail,” nonprofits have untold opportunities to communicate with their audiences through direct mail. Here are a few tips on how to make the biggest impact with each option:


Letters
Letters are the perfect fit for direct mail objectives that require an introduction to a program, vision or mission. They are also frequently used in an annual appeal or other fundraising campaign. Successful direct mail letters are rarely sent alone—they usually include other marketing pieces, like a brochure or a recent newsletter, remit envelopes or a branded freebie like a Bookmark or Button.

Postcards
Great for drawing immediate attention to a message, postcards are great for a wide variety of messages, including promoting an event or as a thank-you note for a recent gift. Postcards don’t rely on recipients opening them to be read; all the information is right there. Some even allow for extra messaging by adhering Sticky Notes or magnets to the outside prior to mailing. Postage for postcards is typically cheaper than for letters and can usually be printed fairly inexpensively. The downside is that postcards have limited space—take care to make messages clear and concise, and don’t go overboard with graphics, colours, text and images.

Booklets, flyers and brochures
Helpful in reinforcing a direct mail letter, booklets and brochures allow for messaging to be expanded and expounded visually. These pieces are great for reaching new audiences, sharing brand messaging, featuring program information or highlighting an aspect of your nonprofit.

Flyers can be standard paper size and mailed alone or with other contents such as a letter. Flyers also are effective as buck slips or fall slips, which are one- or two-sided and about the size of a #10 envelope.

Self-mailers are a cross between a booklet and a flyer but are entirely self-contained and are usually a sheet or two of paper folded together, tabbed and mailed. These pieces can be very versatile, working alone or with other mailings.


Catalogues
Catalogues are for those looking for a way to showcase a wide array of programs in one place. Additionally, these often offer the space to use both text and images to convey messaging.


Dimensional mail
This format describes any direct mail piece that is not mailed as a flat letter or postcard and is typically called lumpy mail or thump mail. This is due to the often irregular shape or noise the package makes when filled with literature and promotional items like Stress Balls or Stadium Cups packed with candy. Use this type of mail to send thank-you notes or interactive event invitations to large donors and board members. While often very effective, dimensional mail requires a larger investment—both in the cost of any items a business sends and in the packaging and postage required to distribute to audiences.

Sometimes businesses will use a variety of these formats in one mailing or as part of a direct mail campaign in order to make the mailings most effective based on target audience segmentations. Paired with an effective message that speaks to the difference your nonprofit is making, your nonprofit is sure to find success in direct mail.

For more information, check out our Blue Paper® Direct Mail Marketing.

Measuring the Canadian direct mail market.” The FLA Group. Web. December 2006.
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