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Six Tips to Help Increase Your Nonprofit’s Direct Mail Response Rate

By July 17, 2013April 25th, 2014Fundraising, Guest Post

Guest post by Phil Kotula of The MPX Group

This week I’m pleased to present a terrific guest post by Phil Kotula of The MPX Group. On July 25, I’ll be presenting “How to Make Your Donors Feel Like Superheroes” as part of The MPX Group’s Demystifying the Myths of Successful Marketing for Non-profits. You can get more information here.

Direct mail is one of the most cost effective ways to market your organization. It allows you to target your desired demographics easier than other marketing channels. While it should not be your only vehicle in delivering your message, when done correctly direct mail can give you a solid return on your investment. Here is what is needed for you to increase your response rates and ROI.


Database is King (or Queen)
65% of your direct mail piece’s success is related to your list. Not only from a demographic standpoint, which is the targeted method versus the shotgun approach, but also from updating the list.

Twenty to 25% of your list will go “bad” in a year’s time. Most people spend an incredible amount of time on the design of their direct mail piece, and often the list is a last-second deal.

A clear call to action
It’s unbelievable how many pieces I see where I’m not sure what the sender is asking me to do. If you don’t tell those who receive your direct mail piece what you want them to do, they will most likely do nothing. Your call to action needs to stand out.

Response options
Make it easy for people to respond in their preferred way – website, email, phone, fax, or even the mail. Allowing people to respond how they want and when they want, will increase the likelihood that they will.

Never stop testing
For a local restaurant, we sent out four different offers to four different groups of 500. We took the one that generated the most responses and sent it to the other 1500. Now, the offer changes monthly. Why do we see things phrased differently that basically say the same thing? – “buy one, get one free” or “buy one, get your next one for a penny” – through testing you’ll find out there can be a big difference in response. Small tweaks can increase results – from the writing, color, photos, fonts, and size – the only thing that should not change is testing.

There are really no tricks or gimmicks that work for very long. A few things you might try that have proven to increase response rates are hand addressing your direct mail envelope and lumpy mail. Combine the two on smaller mailings – pens or a small pad of “post it notes” in a hand addressed envelope insure that most people will rip it open and at least keep the item.

Always send to a name, never recipient or current resident. The more information in a letter or postcard that directly pertains to the prospect, the higher the response rate.

A client of ours told me they only had 75 people on a 10,000 piece mailing go to the landing page and fill out the page and answer their questions. Not only is it easier to go after 75 people that have shown an interest versus mailing to another 10,000, but if you ask the right questions, you may find out the 75 responders have similar demographics, and you can shape your future list with that information.

About Phil Kotula: Phil is the owner of The MPX Group in Golden Valley, Minnesota. He has more than 25 years of experience in helping clients grow their business by improving how they use print and direct mail as a vehicle to get results.


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