Boosting Donations: Nonprofit Direct Mail Postcard Marketing

Envelopes may get a lot of attention, but direct mail postcard marketing for nonprofits is actually a really effective strategy — if you do it right. In this post, we’re going to see how postcards connect donors with organizations by following a few simple best practices.

Benefits of Direct Mail Postcard Marketing for Nonprofits

Compared to envelope (letter) packages or folded self-mailers, postcards enjoy several advantages:

  • Quick to print and then process for mailing

  • Cost-effective due to less use of paper and ink and simpler printing

  • Flexible thanks to multiple size options (generally, 3.25”x5.5” to 6”x11”

  • Messages easily noticed as both sides are visible

  • Combine well with other channels in a campaign

  • QR codes and response CTAs can be quickly used by recipients

  • Can be segmented and/or personalized

  • Longer staying power due to all-in-one design and portability

  • USPS nonprofit permit allows reduced rates

To cut through all of the messaging clutter your prospective donors and current members deal with every day, your nonprofit direct mail campaign should use your piece’s headlines, copy, design, and other elements to engage your intended audience.

11 Real-World Examples 

A nonprofit direct mail strategy should include playing to the strengths and possibilities of postcards. As shown in the below examples, the value in postcard marketing for postcards comes from carefully using limited real estate to get the attention of donors, build their interest, and get them to take action. 

1. Large Type

Mailer: International Rescue Committee

Date: November 2023

Why It Works: To remind past donors that one of the biggest fundraising events (Giving Tuesday) is approaching, the front side of this postcard breaks out the big type for the front and provides a website. A few more details are on the reverse, but the main point overall is simply to drive donations for the matching campaign – and using the hashtag for the social angle. 

2. Jumbo Size

Mailer: Gateway Family YMCA

Date: March 2023

Why It Works: Most of the advantages of using postcards for your marketing campaigns are magnified by using a jumbo-sized postcard, measuring 5-½”x11”, or 6”x11” as in this example. Not only does the larger size stand out in the mailbox, the extra space gives you extra room (and white space) to highlight your copy, messaging and branding, images, and CTA.

3. Images

Mailer: Mountain Lion Foundation

Date: November 2023

Why It Works: 4-Color bleed to the edge photos can be impressive, like the one of this puma on the front of this postcard. According to the organization, it’s one of “12 incredible images from some of the nation’s best conservation photographers” found in their 2024 calendar. To get this premium, recipients can join with gifts of $35 or above using one of the channels mentioned on the reverse side.  

4. Storytelling

Mailer: Disabled American Veterans 

Date: May 2022

Why It Works: Stories are a key component of many nonprofit fundraising campaigns. They help a target audience connect with the mission of the organization. This mail piece promotes a conference call for donors to meet a soldier wounded in war who was helped by DAV. Her brief story on the address side and picture on the front provide just enough of a tease to learn more.

5. Content

Mailer: Alzheimer’s Association Central NY Chapter

Date: September 2022

Why It Works: Content in a nonprofit direct mail campaign educates recipients and establishes your organization as a credible and authoritative source of information. This postcard provides 10 early detection signs for this disease, and in this portable format, can be easily set aside for future reference and further action.

6. The Letter

Mailer: Feeding America

Date: December 2022

Why It Works: A common 6”x9” postcard may not seem like it has enough room for a letter, a staple of direct mail fundraising campaigns. But this one – in only three short paragraphs – notes the urgency of making a gift by year’s end to be eligible for a tax donation as well as have an impact by meeting a tremendous need. 

7. Thank You

Mailer: Habitat for Humanity Greater Los Angeles

Date: November 2023

Why It Works: It is always important to thank your supporters, even (or maybe especially) without an expectation of an additional gift. This ask-free mail campaign centers on a cookie recipe – which is appropriate for the holiday season. But at the same time, it includes a testimonial from a woman who benefited from the work funded and carried out by Habitat supporters. That she supplied the recipe strengthens the connections among the organization, its donors, and those who are assisted through its mission.

8. Segmentation

Mailer: AARP

Date: March 2023

Why It Works: You can create and customize the perfect mailing list for your marketing campaign by targeting prospects as well as members using dozens of data points. In this example, AARP targets drivers in Florida (notice the palm trees in the photo and state outline?), pointing out average state savings on insurance for taking a safety course.

9. Personalization

Mailer: City Year San Jose

Date: April 2023

Why It Works: Simple personalization, such as a first name, gets attention when used on a postcard (once here and twice on the address side). When you try to connect on an even deeper level by using variable data to create more personalized offers, images, headlines, and CTAs, it raises response rates and increases donations.

10. Social Tie-In

Mailer: North Shore Animal League America

Date: August 2023

Why It Works: Tying your marketing and fundraising efforts to other channels is a powerful way to magnify the power of your campaigns. In this case, the postcard highlights the nonprofit’s 1-month fundraising challenge through Facebook.  

11. Calls-to-Action

Mailer: American Cancer Society

Date: October 2023

Why It Works: This 4-¼”x6” postcard, mailed to past donors, is primarily intended to drive webinar attendance. Two of the calls-to-action here (“Visit…”, “Call…”) are set apart with bullet points, while the QR code and its CTA “Scan to give” are in a shaded box. For effective direct mail fundraising, make sure your CTAs are unmissable.

Key Strategies for Nonprofit Postcard Marketing

Postcards are one of the most effective ways to get your direct mail campaign message out to your target audience, and do so quickly and affordably. With the right combination of postcard mailing services, your campaign can grand the attention of your target audience and move your potential donors to act.

Design and Content Tips

Your postcards need to stand out in the mail. Here are direct mail postcard design tips that work:

  • Your donor’s attention is a precious thing. Use white space, short headlines and subheads to focus them on the most important information, such as your message (keep it simple)

  • Get the front and back to work together by using elements (visual or verbal) that explain that message

  • Go with clear, crisp, high-resolution photos, graphics, and logos that boost your message as well as your unique identity and credibility

  • Bigger sizes get noticed, and give you additional room for copy, headlines, images, and digital elements like QR codes

The content of your nonprofit campaign varies depending on your campaign type. For example, an acquisition campaign has to explain more about your organization’s purpose and activities, compared to the stewardship focus for a retention campaign. Here are some tips for using content effectively in postcard marketing for nonprofits:

  • Keep your copy short and to the point, with a focus on a single message

  • Storytelling can be effective and connect with a donor using only a few sentences (see above example)

  • Run easy-to-understand charts or graphs to support your message

Segmentation and Targeting

Your direct mail for nonprofits strategy should play to the strengths and possibilities of this channel. It’s about using data to target and activate the right people. And nonprofit mail can help people feel that they are important and making something better.

You may have a broad mission with a wide audience appeal, but that doesn’t mean you should only send mass mailings. Find ways to focus your efforts on specific groups with something in common. They’re more likely to give based on how you write and structure your direct mail piece.

Data segments can be targeted by:

  • Geographic – if your nonprofit provides services within a specific region

  • Demographic – if you want to make appeals based on gender, age group, etc.

  • Behavioral – if you identify best donors by amount or years as a contributor; try to upgrade their member/donor experience at higher support levels

  • Psychographic – if you have enough data to break down or match potential supporters by shared values and interests

Data rules direct mail. Besides guiding your selection of a segment (see above), it helps you decide what strategy to follow, depending on your budget and goals.

And data can do even more.

Personalization in your mail lets you treat each donor as an individual based on what you know about them – their demographics, giving history, and more. With Variable Data Printing (VDP), you can leverage their data to create customized headlines, calls-to-action, charts, graphics, and images. Engaging them 1-to-1 lifts the response rate and donation amounts of your campaigns. The lower cost of a postcard marketing campaign for your nonprofit may make this tactic more economical for a wider audience or segment.

Measuring Success

One of the most important ways you can analyze marketing performance is to track direct mail campaigns. When you have insight into how your mail reaches customers, you’re able to plan future campaigns.

For nonprofit postcard marketing, options for tracking mailer performance include:

  • Phone call tracking – either manually or with software

  • URL tracking – most useful when using a promotional URL

  • QR codes – a popular choice in most postcard campaigns

Your goal or goals dictate which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you should pay attention to – or ignore.

For example:

  • Response rate – Divide the total count of responses by the number of pieces mailed, then multiply by 100

  • Average gift size – Divide your total revenue by your total number of donations; average amount of money a donor gives in one transaction

  • Cost per acquisition – Divide total cost of campaign by total number of gifts (or members, etc.) for the cost to acquire one paying donor

  • Return On Investment (ROI) – Subtract revenue generated by the postcard from the campaign costs, then divide by the campaign costs. Next, multiply that result by 100 to get this figure

So if your goal is to increase the number of names on your donor file, or to upgrade donors from one level to another (or reactivate lapsed ones), even a campaign with low ROI may be considered a success. 

Tips for Nonprofits on a Budget

Let’s face it: many nonprofit organizations have limited resources. With tight budgets, postcards are an economical alternative to at least test against more elaborate (and higher per piece costs) campaigns using envelopes or letters.

To keep costs low:

  • Find places in your strategy to substitute email campaigns for some direct mail

  • Use automation tools to design, print, mail, and track campaigns

  • Try recycled paper and other sustainable materials

  • Optimize your data by eliminating duplicates, undeliverable/movers

  • Target mailings to segments with better metrics (see above)

Wrapping it up

These examples of direct mail fundraising show that you have many opportunities to connect with an audience by getting inside the heart and under the skin of your most engaged supporters. Remember, these techniques and tips are only a few of the many time-proven ways to create nonprofit direct mail.

How we can help

For nearly 60 years we’ve printed and mailed more than 80 million pieces of direct mail for fundraising campaigns, academic institutions, faith-based organizations, food distribution groups, and illness-related charities. In the process we’ve helped them secure millions of dollars in donations with direct mail marketing campaigns.

Our nonprofit experts help bring their direct mail campaigns to life, from design and data management to printing and mailing. Reach out to our team to talk about how we can work together on your nonprofit campaign!

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