It seems that our mailbox has days when it is completely stuffed, and days when there are one or two items. Yesterday our box was pretty full and I decided look at our mail with more of a critical eye. There were lots of catalogs. It may sound counter-intuitive, but when you make purchases online, the catalogs still continue. And there is a couple of direct mail/marketing letters from car insurance companies that they can give us a better deal. And a doctor’s bill.
Periodically, direct mail fundraising letters from political candidates, political organizations, and not-for-profit organizations we have supported in the past are also in our mail. Far less than 10 years ago. These organizations, particularly the political ones, have my email address and are not shy about sending me frequent emails. And it seems that most of the calls on our home telephone – a landline – are for political candidates and causes.
I have been examining direct mail and online giving statistics, particularly as it impacts the fundraising efforts of my organizational clients. Online giving continues to grow, and direct mail, while holding its own with prior donors, is becoming a more costly endeavor for donor acquisition efforts.
A couple of important demographic statistics to note are that the number of people age 66 and older making online contributions is growing, while those in this same age cohort responding to direct mail requests from not-for-profits is declining.
What does this all mean in terms of direct mail and synagogues?
I have been an advocate of direct mail efforts to congregants, particularly at the time of the High Holy Days and at the end of the calendar year. I have even written a number of letters for synagogues to help with such efforts. Thinking about an overall communications strategy, direct mail should fit in with ongoing email blasts and website and Facebook posts.
You should also be using email and the synagogue website for the purposes of the High Holy Day or End of Year appeals. Fundraising shouldn’t be the dominant message of the High Holy Days, or in December. But the bottom line is that there is a line item in the synagogue’s budget in terms of fundraising. People’s giving habits are tuned in during the HHD and at the end of year. Being “endearingly aggressive” at these times when most people have good feelings about the synagogue is certainly a better alternative than coming up short and expressing a more “dire”, “panic mode” and “doom and gloom” approach towards the end of the synagogue’s fiscal year.
Whether it be direct mail or email, you want congregants to open up the correspondence and to read it. So you have a couple of paragraphs to capture people’s interest and to tell them what you are asking them to do.
Technology has increased our ability – as well as the vehicles – to communicate to raise money. Direct mail for fundraising purposes still can work as part of an overall strategy that incorporates email, website messaging and social media posts.