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BIG’s Blog: “It’s Online S—-d”

Struggling fundraisers are seeing their historical workhorse (direct mail appeals) begin to decline in effectiveness. But the nonprofit direct mail industry is still billions of dollars…that’s billion with a “B.” But for fundraisers, costs keep rising, responses keep falling and margins are compressing. You mail more to get less and less. Last year the American Cancer Society drastically scaled back their mail, including ending acquisition mailings, saying, in effect, we cannot count on direct mail to acquire our future donors.

So what does this mean?

It means you change your perspective on your direct mail fundraising program…and quickly!

Do you know how to do that?

Get up…go on…get up from your chair or couch and walk across the room.

Now, you are looking at your immediate world from a slightly different perspective.  

From this new perspective, admit to yourself…even saying out loud …“direct mail is not our future.”

There…you’ve done it.

You have now joined the growing group of large (think American Cancer Society) and small (think Our Lady of Angels Association) and all sizes of nonprofit organizations and charities in between in admitting your organization’s future revenue growth will not come from direct mail.

Now what?

Two things…

First, understand direct mail isn’t going to go away tomorrow. But…something has changed. Now you are under no illusions that mail is your future. So rather than “living the fantasy” that direct mail will go on forever, you correctly shift your “thinking” and “planning” to…A) “managing the decline,” and B) “building for the future.”

Managing the Decline

How do you do that?

It revolves around analytics, but more on that another day.

Building for the Future

Second, so now you are managing the decline of your direct mail program to maximize excess revenue, but where is the growth? How do you grow new supporters and keep them donating?

Do you remember James Carville, the so-called Ragin’ Cajun who was Bill Clinton’s campaign manager when he first ran for president? When asked by the press about the centerpiece of their campaign platform, he famously said, “it’s the economy stupid.”

So then, borrowing Carville’s lingo to answer the question “How do we generate new donors and increasing revenue without direct mail?” Or, stated another way, “What is our future?” The answer is, “it’s online stupid!”


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