Good news for nonprofits, universities, and foundations: charitable giving is on the rise. According to Giving USA, charitable giving grew nearly 5 percent in 2013 over 2012. Total giving revenues last year totaled $12.5 billion.

There are plenty of ways to ask for gifts, from online forms to in-person requests and special giving events. Another great way to connect with prospects is through good old-fashioned direct mail.

Mailed pieces help foster relationships by offering a personal touch. They may seem old-school. But backed by 21st-century data, direct mail can help organizations understand and speak to their constituents more effectively than ever.

If you decide to use personalized direct mail to raise funds, keep the following best practices in mind:

Understand that personalization is more than just swapping out a name.

Personalized print used to mean simply adding a recipient’s name to a letter’s salutation. Now, it’s much more than that. Based on the information you’ve collected about your donor base, you can use different copy, imagery, and calls to action based on your audience segments. For example, if you’re a college with a dozen different degree programs, you could send a different message to alumni of each group.

Show donors that you care.

Nonprofits couldn’t exist without donors. And there’s nothing more important than acknowledging gifts. This means showing supporters that you know their giving history. This could be as simple as saying, “We appreciate your gift of $100 last quarter,” or, “Thanks for your support over the past 3 years.” It also means saying thank you each and every time a gift is made.

Explain how gifts are helping.

Most people give to organizations that whose mission they identify with. And a great way to give donors the warm fuzzies is to show them exactly how their contributions are making a difference. (Like this mailer for the Artemis Center: $75 buys one hour of operation of the Domestic Violence Hotline, while $100 pays for an hour of therapy for a child). Messages like these make donors feel engaged in what your organization is working to accomplish.

Make communications meaningful.

Rather than bombarding supporters with messages, reach out just a few times in a memorable, meaningful way. A 2013 donor survey revealed that the largest gifts were received by organizations that made between 4 and 6 requests per year. Keep in mind that not every mailing has to include an “ask”—you can also use direct mail simply to share progress or show appreciation to your donor base.

Gather—and act on—donor data.

As with all types of personalized print, the better you understand your recipients, the better you can speak to them. Collect information on supporters’ ages, professions, and interests. Over time, track donors’ giving trends. This can help you determine what percentage increase in giving to request each year.

The old business principle that “it’s easier to keep a customer than find a new one” holds true for charitable donors. A major part of fundraising organizations’ work is caring for its existing supporters and prospects.

Another key goal is moving donors up the “giving pyramid.” This means building relationships that mature and strengthen over time.

Personalized print can help organizations achieve both goals. Timesaving automation combined with a human touch can drive giving—and keep nonprofits’ supporter bases engaged.

Need help using personalized print in your organization? Give Oregon Printing Communications a call today.