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Your nonprofit is trying to reach an audience with your message. Here’s where you can find them—it’s not an either/or.

There are many marketing channels both offline and online that nonprofits can use to share their mission, communicate with their constituents, and raise funds. Some of those channels—like print—have been in use for centuries, while others are less than 30-years-old—and are just now hitting their prime.


Traditional media, often referred to as “offline marketing,” consists of channels like direct mail, print, broadcast, telemarketing, events, window displays or signs, and public relations. Digital media or “online marketing,” on the other hand, consists of channels such as websites, microsites, social media, email, messaging apps, digital advertising, and influencer/digital PR.

Among traditional media, direct mail stands out for two unique reasons:

First, direct mail, by United States law, must be delivered. This removes the risk of “gatekeepers” deciding what makes it to the end user or target audience.

Second, it is truly a one-to-one communication medium. This is very much like its digital counterpart, email, except that email does suffers from various “gatekeepers.”

These two reasons make direct mail a crucial component of any integrated fundraising strategy. Even as we muse about the “digital acceleration,” keeping up with that should not be at the expense of traditional channels. Even today, the statistics on direct mail speak for themselves:

  • 73% of American consumers say they prefer being contacted by brands via direct mail because they can read it whenever they want
  • Up to 98% of people check their mail daily and when they do, on average they spend about 30 minutes with the mail they have received based on findings by the United Postal Service
  • Direct mail recipients purchase 28% more items and spend 28% more money than people who don’t get that same piece of direct mail

That’s extremely high and very valuable engagement with good old-fashioned mail. And yet, don’t think that salient digital numbers are any less impressive!


Every month, billions of users flock online to use the internet, email, social media, and so on. Ease of use, coupled with mobile devices and high-speed networks, makes being online attractive, almost unavoidable.

Again the statistics speak for themselves:

  • 90% of Americans aged 16 to 64 use the internet—and that number increases every year
  • Over 72% of internet users also use social media—and, again, that number has been increasing every year
  • Today, upwards of four billion people worldwide use email
  • From 2019 to 2020 email fundraising increased by 35%

Technology use was on a steady and consistent climb since 2010—then 2020 happened. According to various experts, we experienced the equivalent of a half-decade or more of technology acceptance and use within a 12-month period. That transformation has had a significant impact on human behavior which in turn ought to impact on how nonprofits communicate with their constituents.

Again, while digital acceptance increases rapidly, people are still checking and reading their mail. New media channels, in other words, are supplementing, not replacing, traditional media channels—and that is the real trick.

Ignore either at your own peril. As Eric Streiff wrote last week, nonprofits “must adopt a digital-first mentality.” However, “that doesn’t mean that direct mail is off the books.” Don’t refuse change, but don’t get distracted by this shiny new object, either.

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