Skip to Content

Nonprofit Direct Mail on Salesforce, Part 1

By Dustin Pitts November 23, 2016

Dustin PittsHey there! My name is Dustin. I am a Solution Engineer for based in Charleston, SC. Welcome to my blog series about Direct Mail!

Over the past decade I have spent my career specializing in nonprofit technology, and I love it. One of the areas where I’ve focused a lot of my energy has been direct mail. I’m very excited to share some of my tips and tricks here. I’ve also incorporated how many of the industry-standard direct mail best practices can be built out in the Salesforce platform. I will be posting these as a series:

1) What is this Direct Mail you Speak of?
2) What Does a Standard Direct Mail Workflow Look Like?
3) What is the Deal with Source Codes?
4) Packages & Creatives
5) Campaigns & Campaign Hierarchy
6) Segmentation from A to Z
7) Marketing Planning
8) Acquisition
9) Multi-Channel
10) Telemarketing
11) Merge/Purge, Address Validation, Postal Discounts
12) Reporting & Dashboards

What are we waiting for? Let’s get started with the first topic: an overview of direct mail.

What is this Direct Mail you Speak of?

Direct MailIn this blog series you’ll hear me say the words “direct mail” a lot. What do I mean by that? I mean any printed physical mailing that is sent out through the postal service (USPS, Canada Post, Royal Mail, etc). These mailings can be general newsletters informing constituents about your programs or solicitations for a gift. A lot of you nonprofits folks are preparing for your end-of-year fundraising campaigns right now. You know, those little postcards with with checkboxes asking donors to pick an amount to give? That’s what I mean by “direct mail,” and this whole series will be about how to do that better, on Salesforce.

So you are probably asking, why the heck do we need multiple posts to talk about sending mail? Like many things in life, it’s complicated.

Many nonprofits – and a lot of for-profit businesses, too – depend on direct mail as the funding lifeblood of their organization. The revenue generated from direct mail often represents the general operating budget of many NGOs – literally paying to keep the lights on. Without the foundational funding from direct mail, these organizations wouldn’t be able to deliver the programs that power their mission.

While it is true that many donors are moving online, people are still replying to direct mail appeals. And that number of replies can be staggering. Because of this, nonprofit development teams need to have direct mail down to a science. Just check out some of the figures below to give you an idea of how impactful direct mail is in the philanthropic space.

​“The direct mail business is expected to grow at 1.4% annually and account for $13.8 billion.” -Direct Mail News

“70% of Americans say snail mail is more personal than email.”
-Direct Marketing Association

The best campaigns mix online and direct mail appeals, not just to target two categories of donors, but also because direct mail can actually drive online donations. In that scenario a constituent would receive a printed device and then be prompted to make a donation online or via mobile. Check out these statistics from MobileCause:

Online responses as a result of direct mail

  • Millennials (21-35) – 50%
  • Gen X (36-50) – 50%
  • Boomers (51-65) – 26%
  • Greatest (66+) – 14%

Since the science of direct mail is what this blog series is all about, I figured I’d take a cue from Biology 101 and start by going over some key terminology. These are terms every nonprofit marketer should know, and I’ll be using them throughout the series.

House file – Constituents currently in your database that you own (donors, for example).
Renewal – Similar to a house file, these are constituents that you own but they are usually only past donors.
Acquisition – Constituents that you are purchasing or renting from a third party.
Segment – A group of individuals who are part of a mailing.
Source code – A unique set of numbers and letters that help you identify information about that mailing in a simple glance. Also used for reporting and gift processing.
Finder number – A unique number that identifies the constituent who received the mailing.
Caging – The process of collecting and opening direct mail responses and processing checks.
Deep Lapsed – Individuals who have donated in the past, but not recently. Usually deep lapsed is a donor who has not donated in the past five years. These are often included as a supplement to acquisition mailings
Package – A package represents the envelope and everything within that envelope. This includes copy, business reply envelope (BRE), calendars, etc. There is usually a unique code to identify the package.
Creative – This represents a unique piece of the package. The creative could be the envelope, BRE, calendar, newsletter or anything else. Creatives usually have costs associated to them for roll up reporting.
Test Segment – Used to test a specific package.
Control Segment – The remaining names once you segment out the test names.
Check Digit – A number appended to the end of a finder number to ensure correct keying. This number is often determined by a MOD-10 industry standard.
HPC – Highest previous contribution. This is used for segmentation. It looks at the largest gift in this donor’s lifetime or over some other time span (ex: HPC in last 5 years).
MRC – Most recent contribution. This is used for segmentation. It looks at the most recent gift in this donor’s lifetime. It can include or exclude certain gift types (ex: pledges or membership gifts).
RFM – Recency, Frequency, Monetary – The most common way to do simple segmentation. It groups constituents based off of their gift recency, gift frequency, and the monetary amount of their donations. Example would be 2 gifts, 0-6 Months, $100-$149.99. This represents two gifts in the last 0-6 months that sum up to an amount between $100 and $149.99.

Now that you’re schooled in direct mail terminology, keep reading my blog posts in this series to get more insight on the best way to build out and execute these programs using Salesforce.

Watch Salesforce for Nonprofit Fundraising Demo