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    Posted July 26, 2014 by

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    Is the age of Direct Mail over for charities?


    A recent report has raised important questions about the future of fundraising for UK charities. With the highest level of complaints received about Direct Mail could this mark the end of Direct Mail as a major fundraising tool for the cash-strapped sector?

    The report is the annual Fundraising Standards Board Complaints Report As the title suggests it looks at the level of complaints received about fundraising activities of UK charities.

    For marketers the report brings mixed messages. There is a big rise in the overall number of complaints but this may reflect an increase in the number of reporting organisations. Most charities receive no complaints at all and the report seems to confirm the truism that the larger the organisation the bigger the target as most complaints were made against the UK’s largest charities .  In total 48,432 fundraising complaints were reported by 1,203 charities but this figure should be seen in the context of a massive 20 billion donor contacts, (the total reach through fundraising advertisements, direct mail, telephone fundraising , email marketing, face-to-face asks etc). On average, the largest UK charities reported 515 complaints, while the smallest organisations filed less than one. While there was a 13% annual increase in the number of charities reporting their complaints to the FRSB there was a 51% increase in fundraising activity and a 44% rise in the number of complaints.

    9 out 10 complaints involve face-to-face or Direct Mail but in fact the average complaint rate against addressed Direct Mail is tiny at just 0.0004 – almost half the rate of complaints about face-to-face collections and almost a third of the rate for telephone fundraising. It certainly appears as if Direct Mail is one of the less contentious fundraising methods – and that is likely to ensure it remains within the marketing mix. The threat to Direct Mail

    47% of charities reporting to FSB used DM to help raise funds. But looked at more closely the figures that 100% of major charities – those who raise over £10m per annum – use Direct Mail. In fact Unaddressed and Addressed Direct Mail helped raise over £500million pounds in the period of the report. But online fundraising raised over £3.9billion and TV ads over £10billion so the threat to Direct Mail from digital is real. Online, email and social media fundraising activity levels all rose by over 50% in 2013, outpacing Addressed Direct Mail.

    Despite this challenge the sector seems convinced that Direct Mail will continue to play a major part in the marketing mix.  In the UK, the Royal Mail   report that more than 92% of direct mail is opened and that 48% of UK adults took action after receiving direct mail last year. Response rates for DM average about 3.4% but for email marketing a barely a tenth of one percent. DM is able to make an emotional connection with the target audience that some digital forms are unable to achieve – so far.

    Charities will continue to explore new options. Housing charity Shelter is using SMS as a response mechanism for recruiting donors through a campaign across London Underground stations as part of its ‘More homes now’ activity. The initiative uses moving digital panels installed down the escalators of some tube stations. However, as Matt Goody, head of direct marketing at Shelter, explains: “Using new channels is all about integration. It needs to be combined with other activity. So when commuters reach the top of the escalators they are greeted by face-to-face fundraisers handing out leaflets. The campaign is a real mix of old and new media.”

    It seems that Direct Mail and marketing services will remain in the fundraising mix – a fact few charities can complain about.

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