Direct Mail continues to play a starring role, even as online giving rises

by Ryan Garnett on November 10th, 2015

One of my favourite questions to ask when presenting at conferences is ‘What percentage of retail sales come from e-commerce (online purchases)?’ The guesses are usually pretty high – 30%, 50%, 70%. I’ve even heard some people say 90%. The correct answer is 7.2% (yes, that’s 7 point 2, not 72%) This is according to the US Department of Commerce. This is a figure far lower than most people expect. Many of us feel like we do so much online shopping, but it’s still a small percentage of our overall purchases.

According to Blackbaud, the percentage of total fundraising that came from online donations is approximately 6.7%. Essentially even with retail sales.

The 2015 DMA Response Rate Report also tells a similar story. This research shows that direct mail outperforms all digital channels combined by nearly 600%. Last year direct mail saw a 3.7% response with house names, and a 1.0% response with prospect names. The best digital channel was Mobile with a combined 0.2% response. E-mail was second at 0.1%.

So while online/digital giving is certainly still rising at a fast pace it’s a very small portion of what most organizations are bringing in today. So what does this mean for you? Should you give up on social media and stop e-mailing your donors? Certainly not. These are still very valuable channels, but they’re not channels that you should rely on to raise you a ton of money. Direct mail is still the best channel for that.

In order to raise as much as possible integration is key. In today’s fast-past world you need to be presenting an integrated fundraising message across multiple channels. This means ensuring consistent imagery and messaging across your direct mail and online channels. This also means tracking your revenue through multiple channels to learn whether an online gift was the result of a direct mail package, or was generated through online fundraising. This is because more and more direct mail donors are choosing to make their gifts online because it’s convenient.

This is most important during the holidays, as the year-end tax deadline approaches. So with only seven weeks left until the new year now is the time to start building your integrated program. For more information about how you can do this be sure to check out our success stories which feature some of our best integrated fundraising examples from holiday 2014. 

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