Last night I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, when I came across a post from someone who was “shocked that charities are still buying lists of ‘potential donors’ and soliciting them via direct mail”.
The post wound up in my feed because it was eloquently rebutted by one of my connections.
I was a little dismayed that the original poster, who believed “someone sold [his] wife’s info”, is connected to the nonprofit community. But I was utterly stunned when his initial post and follow-up comments were supported by fundraisers. How do I know they were fundraisers? Because they touted their CFRE accreditation in their name.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all CRFEs. There were CFREs defending direct mail acquisition, but the fact that people who earned their certificate in fundraising were condemning the foundation on which many of this country’s largest and most successful organizations were built on felt like a stab in the back.
As my connection commented, direct mail acquisition is still a critical part of many organizations’ fundraising programs. Certainly there are other ways to acquire new donors, such as digital, face-to-face or DRTV, but many organizations rely on direct mail as the only source for acquiring new donors.
There are a lot of organizations who can’t afford to launch a new channel or who haven’t been able to scale digital acquisition to match the same number of returns that direct mail provides. And, even organizations who make significant investments in other donor acquisition channels, still keep direct mail in the mix.
Why? Because it works. And it has proven to provide a pipeline for higher-dollar and planned giving programs. The moment we can say definitively that there is a better way to acquire new donors who can a) replace the lost revenue from direct mail donors who are no longer being acquired and b) have the same long-term value as direct mail donors, we will stop doing direct mail acquisition. At least that will be my recommendation. We’re a metrics-driven industry and the numbers will tell us what to do.
But for now, for most organizations, direct mail acquisition is critical to building and maintaining a donor base.
The Association for Fundraising Professionals should make sure that fundraisers who earn their CFRE understand the importance of direct mail acquisition and its value. A CFRE is supposed to represent excellence in fundraising – all of fundraising – and that includes direct mail acquisition.