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Direct Mail Fundraising: 5 Best Strategies for Every Nonprofit

Direct Mail Fundraising: 5 Best Strategies for Every Nonprofit


The following might seem a bold statement, but it’s the truth. Nonprofits aren’t in the business of raising money. Instead, they’re in the relationship business

 Or at least they should be. 

 Why? Because the goal matters. When a nonprofit is focused primarily on donations, it can miss out on the subtle relationship-building process that increases contributions and develops long-term donor bonds. However, when these organizations concentrate on building and maintaining strong donor relationships, the donations will come naturally and in more significant amounts! 

 There’s no better tool for effective donor outreach for charities and other nonprofits than direct mail fundraising — even more specifically, handwritten direct mail fundraising. While the following five strategies work well with standard printed mailers, they truly shine when you add the power of authentic handwriting. Simply Noted allows you to automate this powerful communication medium. More about that later.

SEE ALSO:  Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas in 2021


Direct mail includes any type of printed outreach delivered through the mail to a prospect’s mailbox. The most common types of direct mail include printed leaflets, flyers, postcards, and marketing letters. Direct mail fundraising is effective because the tactic connects directly with the prospect. Your mailers are a tangible link between your mission and their mind. 

 The unfortunate truth is that emails and other digital messaging channels aren’t as effective as you might hope. The density of messaging has reached a saturation point where most people get more emails than they can read in a day. Readers are picky by necessity, tuning out all of the extraneous messages they didn’t request. 

 Direct mail fundraising is effective because, as email has grown, mailbox volumes dwindle — and emptier mailboxes place greater focus on the mail that does arrive. And that’s particularly true for handwritten mailers in hand-addressed envelopes. They feel special because they are. Handwritten cards get opened 99% of the time!

SEE ALSO:  How Nonprofits Can Boost Donations and Delight Volunteers

A card that reads "I'm truly grateful for you!"


Here are five of the most effective direct mail strategies for nonprofit fundraising. Remember that each one of these is more effective in a handwritten format. Check the bottom to learn how Simply Noted automatically integrates handwritten direct mail into your existing digital fundraising framework.

Utilize a House File Strategy to Boost Contributions From Existing Donors

Direct mail fundraising works well as a cold market strategy, but it shines with existing donors. Occasional mailers help keep your existing audience engaged with your mission, and an engaged donor base is an active donor pool. 

 Instead of sending direct mail using a purchased mailing list, build a house list that includes previous and current donors. These are valuable relationships that require care and maintenance. Ignore them, and these branches will wither and fall away. Keep them engaged, and they’ll bear fruit now and in the future.

SEE ALSO:  8 Donation Thank You Letter Ideas

Tell a Compelling Story to Engage Your Audience

Direct mail fundraising, particularly the handwritten variety, benefits from a narrative approach. Tangible cards evoke feelings of nostalgia, harkening back to a time when handwritten messages provided a primary link between social circles. This emotional connection paired with compelling storytelling will inspire your prospects to open their checkbooks and support your mission. 

 General storylines that engage donors include:

  • The history and meaning behind your mission 
  •  The progress you’ve made over the years realizing your goal 
  •  Moving accounts of the problems you’re working to solve 
  •  Inspirational stories involving the people and organizations you’ve helped

Stories take abstract concepts and make them real for readers in a way that opens them up for action.

SEE ALSO:  How to Write the Best Thank You Letter for Donations + 4 Templates and Samples

A thank you card that reads "You are making a difference."

Try Strategic Thank You Notes That Increase Donations

Handwritten thank you notes do more than express your gratitude. They make people feel good, demonstrating that their donations are accomplishing something positive. When donors feel directly involved in creating the change they want, they stay engaged, offering extra help — monetary and otherwise. 

 Use thank you notes strategically by employing an automated approach. Create a trigger event inside your CRM that signals Simply Noted to mail a handwritten thank you note whenever you receive a donation. Then add automated follow-ups on an annual or semi-annual basis.  

 You should personalize the initial note with your donor’s gift but don’t feel the need to carry that information into the follow-up messages. Those can follow a structured release schedule to share a compelling narrative over time.

Use a Multi-Channel Strategy

With fundraising, a multi-channel strategy is greater than the sum of its parts. There are synergies available that heighten each channel’s success. 

 Use every option available to engage your audience dynamically, carrying a cohesive, coherent message across email, social media, chat, and direct mail. The goal is to be everywhere your target audience travels, available for engagement whenever your prospects are ready.

Take a Data-Driven Approach

Put metrics in place to guide your direct mail fundraising strategy. You can use these data points to improve messaging, increase response rates, and better target your audience.  

 Link each mailer with a specific landing page — built off of your main site — and track engagement rates, conversion ratios, message strength, and more. Use the data to tweak future mailers, creating a feedback loop that can dramatically boost contributions.

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A happy bunch of volunteers.


As we’ve seen, handwritten fundraising strategies are the most effective variety of direct mail due to their impressive open rate and ability to connect emotionally with prospects. Getting hundreds or thousands of handwritten direct mail pieces written is a challenge, however. 

 Or it was before Simply Noted. Now, nonprofits can automate their direct mail fundraising using the same digital tools they already use. We offer convenient integrations for the most common CRM and marketing automation packages. As quickly as you might trigger an email campaign, you can create a targeted direct mail fundraising campaign involving pen-written cards that are indistinguishable from the real thing. 

 If you’re ready to kick your donations into overdrive with handwritten direct mail fundraising, give Simply Noted a call.

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