Study Shows Direct Mail Triggers 3-to-1 Donations Compared to Email

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July 5, 2012

Donors are more than three times as likely to give an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal than an “e-ppeal,” according to a national study conducted by research firm Campbell Rinker for the non-profit advising firm Dunham+Company.

The study revealed that 17% of donors who gave on a charity website in 2011 said they were motivated to give by a direct mail letter as opposed to the 5% who said they gave because of an email. In other words, direct mail outperformed email in persuading a person to donate by nearly 3-to-1.

“Finding that direct mail has actually grown as a driver to online donations and the online efforts were not really moving the needle was a bit of a shock,” says Rick Dunham, President/CEO of Dunham+Company who conducted the study because it wanted to see if direct mail was diminishing as a source for online donations.

According to results from Campbell Rinker’s DonorPulse™ International study conducted in October and November 2011, direct mail is still the champ of generating donations: 43% of donors to International causes say they have given in the past 12 months because of a letter they received. Email comes in second at 28%, and fundraising events are third at 23%.

Additional Findings from the Study

  1. Donors are receptive to direct mail appeals – 50% of donors surveyed in 2012 said they prefer to give online when they receive a letter in the mail from a charity.
  2. Key donor age groups are giving more when triggered by direct mail. Donors ages 40-59 who said they gave an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal rose to 38% from 35% two years prior.
  3. Among donors age 60 or older, online giving prompted by a direct mail appeal rose to 30% from 18% in the past two years.
  4. Wealthy women respond well to direct mail. Nearly 53% of donors in households with incomes of $75,000 or more preferred to respond with an online gift when they received a direct-mail appeal.
  5. Websites lost ground in driving giving. Only 11% of donors say seeing a charity’s website motivates a gift.
  6. Email-stimulated giving is down. Only 5% of study respondents say they gave an online gift because of receiving an email.

Other study findings were social media is an important component to any nonprofit fundraising effort. Social media influences donors under the age of 40 with 30% of respondents saying they gave online because of information posted on social media. The social media influence increased 6% from two years ago during the last donor study in 2010.

Visit Campbell Rinker for more information on the DonorPulse Study and to participate in the new study that begins March 2013. For more donor campaign ideas, check out how Harvesters Food Bank pulled in more than $600,000 with its donor receipt program.
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Learn why direct mail is the most effective medium for fundraising, how to develop a direct mail plan, and the essential elements to include to ensure success.
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