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Despite the virtual Smartphone and email era we are in, direct mail is still the best way to attract new donors, both young and old, to your organization. While most might assume seniors prefer snail mail, Forbes reported that even 18-34 year olds respond better to paper in hand. And young and old alike want to be offered something in return for their gift. 

What do you offer then if you have a nonexistent budget and seemingly nothing to offer? And what is the cheapest and best way to both send what could be an expensive appeal and then get that gift to new donors? Follow these tips for a direct mail campaign on a budget!

gift box in two hands

Get free free gifts

Ideas for gift offers that cost you nothing or virtually nothing include:

  • DIY green reuse crafts that link to your mission with a logo or theme, like drinking glasses made from wine bottles. You can enlist volunteers to both collect the materials and then make the end products. These can be fun team building exercises for your staff as well if you need a middle of summer energizer or an activity at your staff barbecue!
  • Board or volunteer tours or guided trips. If you are a historical organization, for example, and one of your Board members has connections with a historic home in the neighborhood, ask for a donation of 10 free tours of the property with gifts at a certain level. Alternatively, if you work with kids and know some staff at the local zoo, ask for some free admissions to give away as a promo. You want to offer a unique opportunity for people on your mailing list to enjoy an associated activity that relates to your mission.
  • Free programs or coupons. You can send donors, with their tax receipt or thank you letter, a coupon for buy-one-admission-get-one -free for your upcoming special speaker event or fundraising dinner.

Keep mailing costs down

You do not need to spend a lot of money on your mailer if you follow a few tricks:

  • Ask donors to pay online. Trends show that more and more donors like to look at the physical marketing pitch via snail mail, but they would rather pay online – even older donors now. The mailing peaks their interest to read about you online. So skip the inclusion of a postage paid return envelope and provide simple instructions to pay online. The key to your success is having a very simple to use, powerfully designed online giving page. NP Engage gives 15 great tips for making your online page successful, including good action pictures and suggested donation amounts.
  • Always make the gift back end. Some organizations send the gift first, to guilt the receiver into donating. Instead, plaster “free gift opportunity” and even a picture of the gift if you can on the envelope and just describe it as an offer to be received after their gift is processed.
  • Make the package light. You want to use as much color as possible, so invest in ink and printing, but you do not need to have 5 different inserts. Each mailer can be equal to one page of paper if you include three different sections, as in the sample letter that follows. They can be broken into three separate paper cut sheets or folded and stuffed.

Sample mailer

Your mailer, if in three segments that are equivalent to one page, should be short and direct readers to go to your web page.

  1. The Need, Your Mission, an Accomplishment, and the Pitch in 4 Sentences or Less: More than 50,000 women with children are victims of domestic violence annually in our city, but only a fraction leave their abusers because they have nowhere to go. Lend A Roof (ledaroofnow.org) was able to shelter 1,402 women and children victims of domestic violence last year alone –and with generous support of community members like you, we can reach our goal to double that number in by 2016. Your gift of $50 will house a woman with 2 children for a week – empowering her to leave her abuser and begin to make the steps to provide a safe future for her family.
  2. ‘Free Gift!’ Pitch with a Picture: As a thank you for your generous support, we want to send you a handcrafted glass window catcher that the children of our shelter uniquely design as part of their counseling sessions! Children collect leaves and flowers on nature walks along our grounds and then press the leaves between squares donated by our local GlassSmart to forever capture light and share the hope they inspired with you.
  3. ‘How to Give’ in Big Print: “Go to ourgroupswebsite.org to give with your credit card in 2 simple steps! Or checks can be made payable to Our Group and mailed to us at PO Box 11, City, State, 12345”.

Even if your nonprofit has virtually no budget, you can get in the direct mail game if you have a bit of postage and printing funds, a mailing list, and some creativity to offer free free gifts!

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