10.05.21 4 min

Direct mail as the pillar of an omnichannel strategy

Mark McLean

VP, Data Axle Nonprofit

Direct mail has long been the bread and butter in the realm of nonprofit individual giving revenue. Nonprofits that focus on innovating this tried-and-true channel will find continued success. Our team of nonprofit experts have found that combining cutting-edge digital marketing techniques with a solid core of direct mail is leading nonprofits to new heights of fundraising success. Our expert, Mark McLean, shares why an omnichannel strategy is important now and how nonprofits can continue to center direct mail, even as they expand into new channels.

1. As more of us live our lives online, there’s been a push to invest in digital marketing. How can nonprofits explore digital without losing sight of their core fundraising tool – direct mail?

When we’re discussing direct mail vs. digital, or any other channel, we are so often just speaking towards the channel of transaction. In most cases, the decision to donate is driven, at least in part, by channels outside of the one in which the transaction takes place. With that being said, what we need to keep our focus on in an omnichannel world is the impact that one channel has on another. In many of the omnichannel programs have been a part of, those audiences who received both digital and direct mail touchpoints tend to respond through the mail at a much higher rate, often with a higher gift.

For example, Data Axle recently worked with Defenders of Wildlife on an omnichannel campaign that included Connected TV. If you were at ANA this year, you might have caught the presentation. In conjunction with the CTV ads, the campaign included programmatic components – users who were exposed to the CTV ad were also served display retargeting ads with similar messaging and design, to drive additional exposure and maximize fundraising opportunities. The campaign saw a 12% increase in direct mail response and a 300% campaign ROI. [Read more about this case study]

2. Why is it so crucial for nonprofits to develop an omnichannel marketing program?

Philanthropic giving makes up only a certain ‘share of wallet’ of your donors. This means a strong message needs to be conveyed as to why they should give to your organization versus any other. We know that multiple touches across diverse marketing channels are needed to spread awareness of your cause and grab donor attention. This is why having a strong presence across multiple channels is so crucial.

That being said, screen time continues to increase in your donor’s daily lives and they are consuming more and more information through avenues such as display ads, social media, CTV, etc. While these channels may not always be revenue driving channels in and of themselves, they often are a key step in the journey a donor takes to making their next gift, converting to a sustaining gift, graduating to a major giver, etc.

3. What are the roadblocks standing in the way of widespread digital adoption and innovation? And how can nonprofits get started overcoming them?

A successful omnichannel environment is not something that can be developed overnight. The combination of audience, offer, ask, timing, channel, etc. needs to be in sync, but to be able to do that, testing is needed – and sometimes, lots of it.

There are many variables that go into testing, and because of that, there is a lot of fine tuning needed to find what works best for your organization. Testing takes time and money and can be a tough hurdle to overcome when that investment could be diverted into a known entity. However, more recent data and technology advancements are allowing nonprofits to see testing results and make changes to websites and campaigns within minutes. As AI technology continues to develop, nonprofits can take advantage of automated testing and improvements to boost performance. Changes from the simple and cosmetic, like a call-to-action change or switching a button color, to large changes like page interactivity, are good candidates for testing. Nonprofits need to explore what options we provide to help get prospects the information they are looking for. A/B testing can move the needle on conversion rates as it can expose any barriers to conversion. Breaking down these barriers can, in turn, pay off exponentially. The benefits reaped from this work will be an omnichannel program that is prepared for the continued trending of increased digital interaction paired with the continued success of offline giving.

[For a deeper dive into testing, check out our Expert Q&A with Michael Kruger]

4. How can data help nonprofits maximize omnichannel campaign results?

Data plays an integral role in developing and optimizing an omnichannel program. By using a “donor-first” mindset instead of a “channel-first,” we change the way we look at strategy. Instead of looking at it as “direct mail vs. digital,” we can now use data to help inform us of audience’s channel preferences for both information-gathering as well as preferred transaction channel.

With the data we have at our fingertips, we no longer need to rely solely on prior giving within the organization to guide us on future communication. Instead, we can use data to inform us of the next best communication steps to more effectively drive that next donation.

To summarize, between the pandemic and a growing segment of younger donors, channel preferences continue to shift, highlighting the importance of planning effective cross-channel fundraising campaigns. The success of your omnichannel strategy depends on your in-depth knowledge of your donors, their preferences and the data and technology to support them.



Contact us to learn more about how Data Axle can help with your omnichannel fundraising campaign.

Mark McLean

Meet the expert

Written by Mark McLean, VP, Data Axle Nonprofit

Mark is an industry veteran who brings his vast experience directly to Data Axle clients, where he supports a portfolio of customers and supports new business wins.