Do We Still Need Direct Mail?


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.


6 Comments on “Do We Still Need Direct Mail?

  1. I have received more than 27 direct mail donation letters in less than a month (I only saved the first 27). My mailbox has been full on a number of days from direct mail donation letters.

    • Arthur,

      Thanks for sharing. When I came home yesterday, I actually had a few more direct mail letters in my mail. One from my college which even had my new address without me telling them I had moved!!

      Ideally, we need to focus on the personal, and interpersonal. Mass communication via email and social media and even print is helpful, but it is not the end all.

      Be well.



  2. Agree that direct mail definitely has a direct impact on the audience. It may tend to cross the borderline to spam, but if done right, can be really fruitful for the business. A friend of mine launched his magazine via direct mail with the help of Troi Mail Services(Toronto), and now he has around 10k subscribers. It definitely has a direct impact.

  3. Shalom my name is Elmer Cohen member of the Jewish comunity in Honduras I would like to have your mail to forward a letter that I just received from the only synagogue in Tegucigalpa Honduras,I live in North Hollywood California and want to Help this small comunity in Honduras that is having an emergency now .my mail is I will give you more detail once I receive response.
    Thank you for your time
    Elmer Cohen

    • Mr. Cohen,

      Apologies for the late response.

      My blog from two weeks ago was actually copy you can use for a letter or an email appeal to congregants. I have pasted it below. Please feel free to call or email me should you have any questions, or if I can be of help to you in any other way.


      David Katowitz

      I have been writing about different strategies for the end of year. I thought it best to actually include draft copy that you can use in either email or letter format.

      I would suggest sending this out in the middle of Hanukkah, on either December 7th or 8th.

      Whether it be a letter or an email, the idea here is to take advantage of December – the last month in the calendar year – and do something!

      December 8, 2015

      Dear Temple ABC family and friends, (if you have the ability to personalize with first names, that is even better)

      Each year Hanukkah reminds us of the power of an ancient story to strengthen our Jewish identity and commitment to spreading light.

      At Temple ABC, we are committed to telling the story of Hanukkah as well as the stories of Jewish life in our own community. And what stories we can tell:

      Here are just a few highlights of what has been going on within our sacred community since we were all together at the High Holy Days:

      300 children are enrolled in our Religious School, and 50 in our Hebrew High School
      15 young men and women were called to the Torah as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah
      Our clergy made 65 visits to congregants who were at the Community Hospital
      Our Tikkun Olam team collected more than 2000 pounds of food for the local soup kitchen

      While we have accomplished a great deal together in just 4 months –which have gone by very quickly – there is still a great deal to do to build an even stronger sacred community for all of our congregants.

      To that end, I want to invite you to help us finish the calendar year strong and prepare ourselves for what will be an exciting first six months of 2016. Please consider making a special year-end charitable contribution to Temple ABC. As you know, annual dues/commitments, while important, represent just 80% of our synagogue’s annual budget. The rest comes from contributions from people like you and me – people who believe that Temple ABC is an integral part of our lives.

      At this time of year, I know that you are asked by many worthy organizations for contributions. And I know that you are crazy busy. Please take a few minutes in the coming days, before December 31 to take advantage of a 2015 tax deduction, to make a contribution to Temple ABC.

      You can make a contribution online by clicking here (put the hyperlink to your synagogue’s online donation page here), or you can send your check to Temple ABC, 123 Main Street, Anywhere, USA 12345

      Thank you in advance for your support. May the Hanukkah lights bring much warmth and joy to your home.



      Temple ABC President

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