Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

To use direct mail or email, that is the question. For some organizations, a well-designed, well-produced piece of direct mail conveys a sense of seriousness and professionalism that, to them, is missing from an email.

Other organizations feel sending a well-formatted e-mail newsletter or solicitation shows their constituents that the organization is technologically up-to-date, cost effective and efficient.

Is it an either or proposition?
A perception does exist that only younger donors prefer email, while older donors are often perceived as the only ones who want to receive direct mail. Whether this is true or not, most organizations have a mix of constituents so relying on just one method of communication would fail to reach a good portion of your audience.

The advantages of email
The biggest plus for email is its lower cost. Direct mail can be expensive. While there are some costs associated with an email marketing campaign it is certainly less than a direct mail campaign.

In addition, thanks to technology e-mail is more measurable than traditional mail. With the right software, organizations can know who opens their e-mails, how long they spend with them, and even perform tests to determine which campaigns are most effective.

The disadvantages of email campaigns
Even the most well maintained email lists contain a percentage of undeliverable addresses, some as high as 20 percent undeliverable. Emails can fail to reach the recipient for a number of reasons typos, perceived spam and technical failure. The same is not true for direct mail. Unless the donor has failed to inform you of a change of address, your direct mail will reach them.

If your email does make it into the recipient’s inbox, the open rate is a dismal 30 percent. Subject lines need to grab people’s attention and give them a reason to open your email.

The advantages of direct mail
More communication methods, means a broader reach. With the rise of social media and other online communication methods people are inundated with digital messages, while receiving traditional mail has become a novelty. Your organization can stand out by sending a direct mail appeal.

Donors still respond to direct mail appeals and surveys show that donors often respond to a direct mail appeal by making an online donation. According to Kiva’s 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, of the organizations surveyed 29 percent send a twice a year print appeal and 24 percent send quarterly print newsletters.

How to integrate the two communication methods
It is important to coordinate the two mediums. Your emails shouldn‘t be a copy of your direct mailings. Instead, they should compliment them. Be mobile friendly. Currently, 65 percent of all emails are opened on mobile devices and keep email messages short as most people scan emails.

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