Direct Mail Fundraising

3 Reasons Direct Mail ought to be in your fundraising mix

1 – Direct mail response rates are soaring

Direct mail has been a mainstay of charity fundraising for more than 20 years.  But in 2016, direct mail response rates took a huge leap with 5.3% average response for house lists (falling back slightly to 5.1% in 2017), and 2.9% for prospect lists.

For comparison, in 2015, response rates for house and prospect lists were 3.7% and 1.0% respectively. In 2010 they were 3.4% and 1.4%. [Source: DMA, 2017]

Direct mail is working exceptionally well for charities right now.  It accounts for 56% of all fundraising spend in the sector* for good reasons.  It’s the MOST effective channel for recruiting new donors.  Response rates, and average gift value for existing donors are increasing too as the decline in commercial mail makes charity appeals stand out more. *Source: Statista, Advertising Association and Nielsen, 2017

2 – Declining mail volumes in 2018 is creating a NEW opportunity for your charity

Direct mail is expected to experience a 19% decline in 2018 as more commercial businesses move their marketing into the online space.  [Source: DMA, 2017] 

This dip in popularity offers a tremendous opportunity to charities.  Because as your prospects see less junk mail, your appeals are going to STAND OUT more.   Added to that, cost-per-lead for Direct Mail is actually lower than email, making DM the best ROI donor acquisition medium available to fundraisers. [Source: DMA 2017]

3 – In most cases GDPR is NOT a barrier to recruiting new donors

Advice issued for charities by the Information Commissioner’s Office in January 2018 confirms that CONSENT IS NOT REQUIRED if you are using direct mail to solicit donations from prospects and donors … Relying on Legitimate Interests is sufficient. 

It is important to realise that direct mail is subject to significantly less legal restrictions than digital marketing.   And when the EU added these 18 words to clause 47 of GDPR – namely “The processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for legitimate purposes”  – they meant direct mail.

As part of our service we guide you through the “balancing exercise” required by the ICO, so that your fundraising communications can be said to be proportionate and unobtrusive, and that your prospects and donors would have a reasonable expectation of receiving them.

Three simple but POWERFUL techniques we use to generate MORE Direct Mail revenue:

Taken together, Dialogue Method, K.I.S.S and R.I.C, combined, can increase response rates by up to 5-10 times.  These techniques actually enable you to spend LESS on marketing your charity, AND raise MORE charity income. 

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I was paired with Gordon as part of the Institute of Fundraising Mentoring Scheme. Being able to come to him with new ideas, concerns and questions about an area of charity work that I was relatively new to at the time was incredibly useful, and he was always able to provide great input and feedback that I used to improve my performance in the role and get a promotion.

Josh Hillier
Community Events Manager, National Osteoporosis Society, Bath

Gordon manages to consistently out-perform bench marks for direct marketing response rate, average value and retention.
You don’t often see ROI in the range of 8:1 for marketing campaigns in our industry. That’s impressive.

Nick Thomas
Partner, Tangible UK

We ran a test of our copy against some Gordon had written. It was a treat to come up against such stiff competition
(Drayton Bird’s clients include: American Express, Hargreaves Lansdown plc [financial services], Readers Digest and Save the Children.)

Gerald Woodgate
Partner, Drayton Bird Associates

RIC is the acronym for Readership Involvement Commitment.  Freely translated this is where you engage your readership by encouraging them to physically handle your mail pack (e.g tear off a section; unfold a page). The more that recipients get ‘involved’ with the pack, the higher the response.

The “20 seconds” Rule

Research shows that response increases significantly if you can keep your readers’ attention in your mailing pack for 20 seconds (or more).  When it comes to important direct mail principles, RIC is right up there with the AIDA formula and KISS.

KISS stands for ” keep it simple and straightforward “. Freely translated it means: Make it as easy as possible for the reader.

Highly complex advertising tends to overload donors.  On the other hand, a simply designed appeal letter can be read very quickly.  Readers recognise the advantage or benefit of an offer within a few seconds and are prompted to read further, making it far more likely that they will respond to your message and give a donation.

By keeping things simple for your donors and prospects, you make your fundraising appeals more “appealing”.

But writing KISS-type copy isn’t easy

For one thing it takes more time to write…

As Mark Twain is reputed to have said: “I wrote you a long letter, as I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Kiss-copy also requires a good deal of research, as without an exceptionally good understanding of supporters’ motivations – especially your prospects – it’s very hard to second-guess which boxes your letter must tick before people will ‘buy in’ to your organisation, and your offer (appeal).

The Dialogue Method (below) is an extremely effective – yet little practised – technique for discovering what are your supporters’ most pressing “questions’.  The Dialogue Method enables you to provide the answers would-be donors are looking for.

We have the late German Academic, Siegfried Vögele, to thank for the Dialogue Method.

Siegfried-Voegele-150x150Some have called Vogele the Albert Einstein of direct mail.

Prof Vogele’s pioneering eye-tracking research revolutionised our understanding of how people interact with direct mail.

One of Vögele’s classic discoveries was HOW people look at a direct mail pack:


  1. Look to see who’s writing to them.
  2. Look for their own name as the addressee.
  3. Go to the end of the letter to see who signed it.
  4. Read the P.S. (see No 1)
  5. Maybe skim the letter

Vogele recommends the “judicious” use of Images and Headlines to ‘sell’ benefits to readers. This opens up a kind of “silent dialogue” between writer and reader, and enables people to easily scan the direct mail piece quickly in the critical 20-second “first run through” phase – when the decision to read or throw away the letter is taken.

But these can’t be any old images of headlines.

If they are to help convince your donors and prospects to read, and not bin, your appeal in the critical first 20 seconds – they must answer your supporters’ most important questions  – normally these are about your campaign, organisation or beneficiaries.

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It is our policy never to sell, swap or in anyway trade your details to a third party for marketing purposes. All enquiries (including via this form) are treated in strict confidence.  Should you choose Bloom Fundraising as a fundraising partner, we shall take all practical steps to safeguard sensitive data, including fundraising strategies, tactics, performance data, and where applicable, the handling of your supporters’ data.  Our privacy policy complies with the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice and Chartered Institute of Marketing guidelines.