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Is direct mail worth investing in when it comes to reaching a younger, more digitally-driven generation? That’s one of the most common questions our team gets these days when it comes to the future of direct mail fundraising.

In a time where generations who typically give through the mail continue to age and pass on, and organizations are looking for ways to increase engagement, donations, and retention in younger donor pools, the question of direct mail and its effectiveness comes up.  But, at the end of the day, when I speak to my friends who work specifically in direct mail and those on my team here who are experienced in and knee-deep in that channel, the long and short is that the ROI of the channel still makes sense for many organizations.

But, that could change if we don’t breathe new life into direct mail practices for the charitable space.

Direct Mail Isn’t Worthless, Bad Direct Mail Is…

Let’s talk about engaging younger donor audiences through direct mail.  From my own personal standpoint being somewhere in the weird blurred line between Gen X and Millennial, receiving mail is still a good thing if it…

  • Brings value
  • Tells a story
  • Warms my heart at the end of a long day
  • Is personal
  • Is easy to take action from

Receiving something that is perceived as junk, clutter, or a waste of money is going to go in the recycle bin – quickly.  When I get bad direct mail, I’m immediately reminded of that Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes things up with the US Postal Service because of the constant flooding of Pottery Barn catalogs.

Direct mail solicitations that are engaging and make it easy to take action are vital in a changing and distracted world, where generations like mine have the will and means to give, but we don’t know where our checkbook is about 80% of the time.

Could the QR Code Revamp Direct Mail Fundraising?  

So how can nonprofits take advantage of new changes to the smartphones that ride alongside us everywhere we go?

Enter the QR code.

Say what? You may be thinking, but QR codes have been around a while and nobody actually scans them, and they aren’t actually practical.

That’s where things may change.

There was a great article that I stumbled upon the other day by Ryan Holmes, CEO of social media management platform HootSuite, in which he talks about the opportunity for QR codes to make a comeback.  As he explains, the reason for this is that in Apple’s latest release of the iPhone, they decided to build a QR code scanner directly into the phone’s camera.

No more extra QR code scanner apps to download.  But what about Android?  Three minutes of searching on Google and Quora tells me that some Android phones don’t have this feature built in but many do and if you are on Marshmallow 6.0 or above and have the “Now on Tap” app, you’re golden.

3 Ideas to Integrate QR Codes into Direct Mail Fundraising

In the same way, podcasts have made a major comeback, so could the QR code. And this time, it could be a wedge that many charities are looking for as a method to continue their snail mail practices and use it as a way to engage younger donors by driving them to digital channels.  Think about what you could do with a QR code on your direct mail pieces.  These are just a few ideas that come to mind for me when thinking through new integrated strategies:

  1. Make donating from snail mail easier for those generations like mine who don’t know where their checkbook is and are more conditioned to want to give online.  Include a QR code (and instructions to scan it with your phone’s camera) and have it link directly to a mobile-responsive donation form.
  2. Integrate storytelling with QR code capabilities. Include a QR code and have it link directly to a compelling video that shows the impact and story of an individual(s) your organization just recently helped.
  3. Bring augmented reality experiences to life through your direct mail. Of course, you need some prowess from a digital team or expert to help you build this, but what about creating some sort of game or augmented reality interface that puts the potential donor (the one holding your mail piece) into the story of your impact.  Put them at the center of that experience, that reality.

So, if you find yourself sitting in yet another meeting where someone says “How can we better engage Millennials?” remember this article. These are just a few ways that we should be thinking about how to take new technology and apply it to marketing channels to create more integrated fundraising stories and create experiences that will bridge the gap between “new channel” and “old channel.”

Let’s make it happen.

Interested in talking to a team that can help you think through integrating these strategies or other creative way to further engage your donors and potential donors in the future of direct mail fundraising? Reach out to the team here at Pursuant.