November 23, 2016 Douglas Shaw & Associates

Recently the Data Marketing Association (DMA) reported that mail outperformed all digital channels by nearly 600 percent. This industry watchdog measures and represents all channels of direct response, and their study validates what most astute fundraisers already know. A fully integrated, multi-channel fundraising plan would leave a big, gaping hole if it were to exclude the power and value of direct mail. As this study recognized, direct mail achieved a massive 3.7 percent response rate. By comparison, all digital channels combined only achieved an industry average response of 0.62 percent.

What’s more impressive, last year Douglas Shaw & Associates’ cultivation program beat the industry average, achieving a 4.7% response rate across all clients. So how does that news translate to bottom line results? By delivering a $50+ donor acquisition average gift and achieving aggregate cultivation income projections for all our clients by 106.41%.

But what do these numbers say about traditional mail when compared to digital channels?


“Often I am asked, is direct mail dead? Far from it! I’m happy to report this tried and true method of reaching donors is both alive and well!”
– Douglas Shaw, Chairman of the Board/CEO

That’s not to say that these other fundraising channels can or should ever be excluded. In fact, Douglas Shaw & Associates has seen impressive results for the ministries we serve by beating the industry average in these digital channels as well. This study merely points out that a fully integrated communications plan excludes direct mail at great risk. Traditional mail is both physical and tangible, and has the tendency to hang around the house a little longer than messages accumulating in your email inbox.

By these standards, one can easily see that direct mail isn’t going away anytime soon. It may be said that web and email help you build relational value and create new avenues for revenue. But in-home mail demonstrates sustainable purchasing and donation decisions. Which is why catalogers, insurance and cable companies, charities, and a host of other ministries continue to rely on and invest much of their marketing dollars in direct mail.


At Douglas Shaw & Associates, we continue to see the value of direct mail each and every day with our clients. In the process, we’ve learned a few things. First off, people who give to charitable and cause-related services have a deeper connection to those ministries. Keep your messaging real, relevant, and reciprocal. Donors who believe in your cause want to invest in you for the long haul. Give them plenty of reasons to do so on a regular basis, and remember to say thank you. Don’t let supporters of your ministry feel neglected and unimportant, lest they begin to talk about you like their long lost relatives: “They Never Call. They Never Write!”


Understanding and applying these mission-bonding insights allows ministries to create a unique approach in direct response fundraising that begins and ends with their donors. From our inception, we’ve built fundraising programs around our Donor Focused Strategic Marketing™ philosophy. This approach is driven by information we know about donors based on their transactional, demographic, and psychographic behavior.

Next, we systematically identify the best channels to engage the largest number of people, while generating their best giving to your ministry. Our own research has proven that the more ways people connect with a ministry, the more valuable they become over time. This approach incorporates both channels and response logic to understand the donor’s transactional and relational behavior.

In 2015, Douglas Shaw & Associates achieved a 4.5% response rate and generating aggregate income projections of 106% across all clients!

Moreover, our custom fundraising approach begins by telling real stories of people facing extraordinary circumstances. These struggles of the human spirit remind readers of the integral role they play in creating real and sustainable life-changing differences throughout the world.

We don’t measure direct response; it measures us! Personal opinion does not matter when crafting a direct mail package, email, microsite, or other medium. At Douglas Shaw & Associates, we embrace the counterintuitive nature of our industry, recognizing it is the donor’s opinion that carries the most weight.

When a donor believes in your cause, they have a heart for it, and they want it to succeed. People who are emotionally invested in your cause or ministry will wear you on their sleeve or post you on their Facebook profile.

That should tell you something. Direct mail is a long-form, ongoing storytelling opportunity. Your donors want to hear from YOU the way you want to hear from your loved ones. Remember that your donors want to believe the $25 or $1,000 they send to your ministry is relationally similar to a check they may have just mailed to a nephew they’re helping put through college. Share your ministry’s stories and results regularly with your supporters to create long-term relationships. Share lots of stories through traditional mail, and don’t forget to say thanks! That will put you well on your way to achieving massive results for your ministry.

If you liked this article, check out:
The Hidden Value Of The Value Proposition

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