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Just how important is direct mail to charities?

givingtuesday-logo-2I certainly understand the branding behind Giving Tuesday. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, having a day that promotes charity over consumption is a great way to add a bit of balance to the season.

This year, online sales during the holidays are set to jump an astounding 17% over last year’s numbers — exceeding 94 billion dollars. For the first time online sales will bump past the 10% mark of total sales!

Only 10%?

Yep. With all the hype about Cyber Monday and the online retail revolution, brick-and-mortar sales still dominate, with 90% of the action.

Fundraisers are not immune from the rush for digital gold. Consider that after more than 20 years of internet commerce, only 8% of donations are made online. That means the other 92% are still coming through direct mail, face-to-face contact and telephone connections.

So when I see fundraisers pursuing a digital-first strategy, I always give my head a shake. Not because I’m in the data-driven direct mail business. But because it seems counterintuitive to ignore 92% of opportunities in order to focus on 8% of potential givers.

And I’m just as guilty. Last year I was forced to confront my own digital bias when I realized I was using online marketing to promote direct mail fundraising. So this year’s campaign includes a direct mail piece! 

Canada Post recently released a white paper based on neuroresearch showing the relationship between direct mail and online marketing that showed how organizations can improve results by combining digital and direct mail tactics into a winning strategy.

Of course, I’ve also written about why it’s important to take a multi-channel approach to fundraising in the past.

The big takeaway is that, just as shopping isn’t restricted to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, giving is not exclusive to Giving Tuesday. It’s something that happens year round. And to put all your efforts into a single day when there are so many other opportunities to make giving a habit seems to miss the point of human charity.

In our own case we give generously to community groups throughout out the year. Some examples include:

  • Seniors home Christmas gifts
  • AFP Foundation for education in fundraising
  • Local hockey
  • Windfall Ecology Centre
  • Aurora Historical Society
  • Aurora Cultural Centre
  • Magna Hoedown Fundraising Concert (supporting many local  charities)

Not all of these fit nicely into the seasonal giving theme, but are important nonetheless.

So the goal of fundraisers is not to use Giving Tuesday to “fill the tank” once, but rather set their organisations up for continued success throughout the year by creating a funnel that uses multiple channels (print, digital, face-to-face, etc.) to continually engage donors with effective messaging.

Do that and Giving Tuesday becomes more than a one-day fundraising tool; it becomes the first day of a year-long campaign.

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