Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Techniques vs. Connecting - Part 2

In my blog last Monday, I ended asking the question, Why would “tried and true” direct mail techniques with 50+ years of success suddenly stop working and how do we really learn to connect with potential donors? There are two questions here, so let’s address them separately.

The good news is that these direct mail techniques won’t just “stop working” overnight. A caveat – I might have to rethink this if the Postal Service does away with the nonprofit postal discount overnight rather than phasing it out. But for now, let’s just assume direct mail fund raising techniques will not be obsolete overnight.

There are three major interrelated trends at play today that are undermining postal mail as a viable marketing media. The first is the fundamental shift in communications technology; the second is the major generational shift in American society and the third is the explosion of nonprofit organizations that heightens competition for donor dollars.

All three of these trends have nothing to do directly with the demise of the postal mail, yet all indirectly affect it.

The take away is that although direct mail marketing techniques have worked for 50+ years and continue to work today (albeit not as well as ten years ago) for nonprofit organizations that are dependent on economical postal mail, the trend line of the economics of Postal Service will soon negate past success and portend a more costly and less effective media.

Only those nonprofit fund raising organizations that cling to direct mail and refuse to rethink alternative direct marketing media and new donor development methodologies will fail. Hopefully, the vast majority will begin to rethink what their fund raising organizations need to look like organizationally, infrastructure wise, personnel wise and financially.

This brings us back to “connecting” with potential donors. In the first part of this series, I used the analogy of an auto manufacturer marketing department using research to determine the specific “whys” in ascertaining why and what the specific issues are that would trigger someone specifically to choose to buy their automobile. This is a question most established nonprofit organizations that have used direct mail fund raising for decades have never asked.

If the era of direct mail fund raising which is drawing to a close was ham fisted in comparison to the way other industries get to know and connect with their potential customers, when we consider the proliferation of highly personalized communications today, the future for nonprofit fund raisers connecting with and engaging new donors will be a new golden era of fund raising.


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