Is snail mail really dead?

We are constantly changing. To be a living, breathing individual on this earth means that we must embrace the change. What we did yesterday does not dictate our actions today. And what was “in” three months ago is suddenly crammed into the dark recesses of our too small NYC closets. It’s the way the world turns.

As we have moved forward, our fundraising practices and styles have changed.  From chinese auctions, barbecues, breakfasts, and banquets to marathons, bake sales, social media campaigns, the list goes on and on. While it’s important to explore  trends (well, maybe you could have survived skipping the pet rock trend), it’s important not to discard the foundations. In fact you want to translate trends that work into your foundations.

In today’s fundraising, there is a huge focus on digital communication. Early naysayers may have dismissed it as a bunch of mumbo jumbo, a magical power reaching millions with the mere press of a button, too good to be true. But the hype is true, you can reach all of your contacts with the click of a button!

Digital marketing is a HUGE part of successful fundraising today, but there is still nothing quite like the smell of fresh paper coming out of an envelope. As post mail has become less and less used, our inclination is to drop it all together. But, there is something romantic about receiving mail. The feeling of receiving a personalized letter, the weight of paper, and the anticipation before ripping it open and devouring its contents. It all amounts to a feeling of personalized love. In a world full of text messages and facebook, post mail reminds us that romance is not dead.  

When used correctly, direct mail can actually be quite powerful. As with any communication, there are usually two reasons: Report and Ask. Report progress, and ask for help furthering the cause.


Make is personal. Don’t just send out mass letters to your entire donor base, quite frankly it’s boring and will end up unopened in the garbage. Sift through your list. Who will actually appreciate direct mail? While it may be time consuming, think about enlisting a volunteer to personally address each letter. Maybe throw in a personal note handwritten by you or a staff member to your bigger donors. These thoughtful considerations really make your donors feel your individualized love.


It’s gotta be different. You cannot send the same old same. Consider using an oddly shaped flyer, colorful envelope, scented paper or even a small gift.


Make it interesting. Sending out a standard mailer may not have the effect you want. Instead, develop a consistent theme or story. For example, once a month, send out a picture and story of a student in your program on each mailer, creating a series of updates.  Profile a different beneficiary every month, or a different project, leading up to a final ask.  Another idea is to integrate your social media. Use the same graphics to create long term engagement.  


Why is it called snail mail? Simply because it is so much slower than digital communication. Realize the benefit here, we all know slow and steady wins the race. A mailer may not directly cause millions in donations in checks.  It will certainly foster a deep relationship between you and your donors, consistent relationship building leads to consistent donations.
So my friends, the answer is clear. Snail mail is not dead. It’s alive and well just waiting to be done right.