Breadcrumbs

Debate: Is direct mail being replaced by email as a fundraising technique?

By Ken Burnett, Third Sector, 25 June 2013

Direct mail

Direct mail

Figures from the Fundraising Standards Board show the amount of direct mail sent by its members fell last year

Ken Burnett is a consultant and founder of the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration

Despite contrary impressions given by fundraisers, the message is invariably vastly more important than the medium. Direct mail's track record far outweighs that of email.

Today, direct mail consistently delivers fundraising income in volume; email's results seem patchy at best. Some fundraisers might be mailing less because times are hard. But then, some fundraisers are also cutting fundraising investment, despite all the experience indicating that they should be doing the opposite.

Craig Linton is fundraising director at the sight-loss charity the RLSB

Craig Linton is fundraising director at the sight-loss charity the RLSBNo. Money raised through email is still a fraction of direct mail income and it is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Email fundraising works best in a genuine emergency, or when it complements direct mail: for example, when you send an email to donors a few days before a letter lands, or as a reminder to respond before a deadline. Too often, donors who say "send me only email" never give again, despite their good intentions. The post provides something tangible that email struggles to replicate.

Rachel Beer is a fundraising and marketing consultant

Rachel Beer is a fundraising and marketing consultantNo, but charities are using email more, generally for supporter development and stewardship. Email hasn't replaced mail for development of donors recruited through mail, but it tends to be used for other warm audiences. The big move away from direct mail has been on the acquisition side. That has been a trend over the past decade: because of the continual decline in response rates and increasing costs, it ceased to be viable for anything other than niche activity. Most mail - and other print - acquisition has been replaced by street and door-to-door methods.

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