Moving your newsletter or fundraising appeal from print to online can be a money-saving, engagement-driving strategy for a small charity – we explain how
Direct mail has long been a staple of charity communications. But there’s been a pronounced decrease in fundraising via direct mail over the last few years, as the number of new, cost-effective communications channels has exploded.
The introduction of the Fundraising Preference Service in 2017 and 2018’s GDPR legislation have also played a role in rapidly changing the landscape for charity fundraisers, with many having to clean their direct mailing lists in order to ensure consent and be in compliance.
Gone is the era of broad-brush campaigns that rely on volume and mass mailings – charity communications have got to be ’opt-in only.’ The public have much more autonomy in how they’re contacted by non-profit organisations and can easily put the breaks on if they feel they’re being spammed or their communication preferences are not listened to.
Supporters are more likely to engage with content that is timely, targeted and relevant to them. Bringing communications online has given charities access to an array of data tools that allow them to test, measure and tweak their campaigns as they go, so nothing is left up to chance.
All this has led charities to much more carefully consider the balance of their communication channels in favour of bringing the core of them online.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a whole new spotlight on the issue. While there’s no definitive answer from scientists on how long the virus can live on surfaces such as paper or letterboxes, many organisations feel they have to give extra consideration as to whether the mail they’re delivering is an ’essential service’ and worth the risk to their supporter communities.
The lockdown is seeing people embrace digital channels for all sorts of areas of their lives that they might not have previously. With communications over the coronavirus-immune internet, charities are able to show that they’re doing the responsible thing, while also able quickly adapt messaging and information to be relevant with the current guidelines and up-to-the-minute news – something which just isn’t always possible with the speed of print runs and delivery.
So if your charity has decided to move some or all of its communications from paper to digital, what is the best way to make the transition?
One of the most crucial things to get right in a charity communications campaign when looking to transition to the online world is how to balance print and digital, and figure out the right mix for your supporters.
The channels you select will most likely depend on the aims of your specific supporter engagement journeys.
A recent study from charity fundraising experts Blackbaud found that 79% of all charity donations are as a result of direct mail. Done right, sending a personalised letter can connect a supporter physically to your cause, and feel more direct and meaningful.
However, you may be more likely to see engagement by keeping the more generic communications like your monthly/weekly newsletter or general campaign appeals to digital. You will still be able to personalise and target your newsletters by segmenting your email lists using email automation, so different members of your audience will see the content most relevant to them – see a guide to getting started here.
Are there longer, offline resources that might be better delivered in a user-friendly digital format such as a PDF eBook? Or graphic-heavy materials that could be much more cost-effectively delivered online, adjusting to the channel they’re on automatically?
Print can have longer lead times and far more associated costs. For an emergency appeal that you want supporters to act on quickly, digital fundraising platforms are designed to help charities launch and cash in on campaigns fast – we list a few suggested platforms here.
If you choose to combine your direct mail with digital communications, it’s important that the two don’t become separated or siloed.
As John Onion, Managing Director of charity marketing agency UpRise Up warns: “The real risk is that a disjointed approach across different channels, each focusing on a different campaign, will generate mixed messaging issues with the most important of the audience. In turn, this can lead to a disengagement with the charity brand as a whole.”
Make sure that imagery and messaging you use is consistent across all your channels. You should also be clearly signposting people from direct mail to your charity online by including on any printed communications a strong call to action (CTA) that directs them to a website landing page. Have this be a single CTA that isn’t competing with lots of different ’asks’.
You could even integrate a QR code or a link to encourage them to follow your social media channels – just don’t miss the opportunity to pass them along into your ’funnel’ and get them to sign up for online communications.