Thursday, September 20, 2012

BIG’s Blog: A Note from Jeff Norton circa 2008

Rummaging through some old files on my desk, I found a note from January of 2008 from Jeff Norton, who is the Operations Director of the Columban Fathers. The Columbans are a client of ours.

The note Jeff sent me was an AFP e-newsletter, and the headline was, “Direct-Mail Donors Still Dwindling.”

The Third Quarter 2007 Index of National Fundraising Performance, done by Target Analysis Group, examined direct-mail charitable transactions from 72 charities involving more than 39 million donors and 70 million gifts totaling more than $1.9 billion in revenue for the 2 months ending in the third quarter (Q3) of 2007.

The first headline: New Donors Hard to Find. The major factor is noted as a decline in acquisition rates.

The second headline: Reasons for Declines. The index offers several reasons for the decline in donors: 1) A changing generational profile in the United States, 2) Changing attitudes of donors about giving, and 3) A change in focus by fundraisers toward higher-dollar donors. “I do not think direct mail is dying, but it is changing,” said Carol Rhine, senior fundraising analyst at The Target Group. “The catalogue industry has learned this: They still send the catalog, but customers no longer order through the mail. They get information in the mail, but they buy over the phone or online. Direct mail has to change so it can accommodate the trend.”

Do you remember one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes, besides “E=MC2?” It had to do with the definition of insanity. Goes like this: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

“Direct mail isn’t dying, but it is changing.” Really?

I do give Target Analysis Group the kudos for noting the three key issues for the decline. But today nothing has changed except that the numbers have gotten worse. But I don’t have to tell that to Development Directors…they’ve lived it in watching the declining numbers for the last four years.

Let’s just say it… “Direct mail is dying.” In fact, it is in terminal decline. It isn’t coming back. But, direct marketing is still alive and well. Lists turn into information, and Mail Packages turn into other forms of digital communication.


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