Practice Makes a Perfect Major Gifts Ask
June 3, 2015
Refresh Your Board’s Elevator Pitch
June 18, 2015

So Many Options: Direct Mail, Mobile Giving, and the Choices Fundraisers Have to Make

indecisionWhat’s a fundraiser to do?

First, this week a compelling blog post came out from Target Marketing by Gary Hennerberg called “Why Direct Mail Won’t Die”, which includes an astounding fact:

“Research reveals comprehension is better when information is consumed in print. And there’s more: millennials — digital natives, if you prefer — who today are in their 20s and 30s, prefer print.” (The link is to the Washington Post article about the research.)

The post includes the important point that humans have been reading in print – something you hold in your hand – for thousands of years. Our brains are trained for it. (In contrast, the iPad was released 5 years ago.)

People like the feel of paper. It seems special and as such, it’s the go-to medium for higher-end communication. Printed materials are here to stay and woe to the fundraiser who abandons them without cautious testing and a super-strong alternative strategy.

When I sat down to write my blog today, I was going to write about this very subject.

But then an equally compelling blog post from The Agitator appeared in my inbox.

Simply called “Mobile and Fundraising”, the post makes the case for investing in mobile giving capacity. Here are four stunning stats cited in the post:

  • On average, consumers check their mobile devices 150 times a day;
  • More than 20% of mobile traffic goes to e-commerce sites;
  • 79% of smartphone owners use their devices to buy products or services;
  • Consumers spent $182 billion on mobile commerce in 2013, and that’s expected to surpass $700 billion by 2018 … almost a four-fold increase.

The post also includes a great infographic from Blackbaud that debunks some of the very myths we fundraisers have been telling ourselves about mobile giving and includes the very (dare I say it again?) compelling fact that 9.5% of all donations are made using a mobile device.

So, there you sit in your office, wondering where you should invest? Should you stick with mail? Ramp up mobile giving? Should you listen to that one board member who tells you that no one he knows will ever give on a smart phone? Should you listen to that member of the executive staff who says direct mail is costing the organization too much?

The field of fundraising has new, shiny toys just like any other industry. It also has sacred cows.

Your job as a fundraiser is to ignore both and focus on your donor, to see what channel of fundraising works in your, unique fundraising operation.

So, when you see a persuasive article or enticing new data, bring yourself back to reality by asking three questions:

  • Who are my donors and what channels are most effective to reach them?
  • What kind of new donors are we looking for and what channels reach those folks?
  • Which channels are a fit with our long-term objectives and strategy?
  • And am I doing all that I can to test and discover shifts in performance?

Seeing a post like the one in The Agitator today can really get you going. Heck, as a consultant I spent a good five minutes thinking, “How can I get my clients more into mobile giving?”

But, that’s the wrong path. You need to reach your donors where they are and you need to create ways of reaching them that deliver for your long-term strategy. That may indeed be direct mail and it may be mobile and it may be both.

But one thing is for sure. You’ll never know unless you know your donors and read the data.


Photo by Thierry Ducornetz, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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