The number-one priority for any nonprofit is advancing their organization’s mission. The number-one challenge? Ensuring donations continue to come in so that they can continue their work. There are so many worthy causes out there, and many demands on your prospects’ attention. How do you make them take notice of your organization—and then take action?

Over our 40 years of business, Oregon has partnered with dozens of local nonprofits to assist in revitalizing their fundraising efforts. We’ve worked out a recipe for successful direct mail appeals and are happy to share our knowledge and stories of success with nonprofits – because, according to Heather Bailey, Executive Director of The Tipp City Foundation, “When you find a secret, you share it. That is how communities grow, when nonprofits share successes so that they can spend their time on their mission.” We couldn’t agree more!  Below, we’ll walk you through the five steps of our recipe for success and share real-life examples from Heather and The Tipp City Foundation.

Direct Mail for Fundraising: 5 Steps for Success

1. Determine a purpose and a goal.

This idea may seem straightforward enough, but it is vital that this step is not only considered, but also clearly defined and written out. This not only helps you hone in on your campaign’s targeting and messaging, but also sets you up to track your campaign’s results.

In Practice: The Tipp City Foundation, a nonprofit that serves to positively impact Tipp City, Monroe Township and Bethel Township, runs different campaigns throughout the year to raise funds for unique projects. In 2017, Oregon helped the foundation execute both their Annual Fundraising Campaign and a separate, project-based campaign to underwrite an area park.

While both campaigns raised funds that came into the Tipp City Foundation, each had a different purpose and different goal.  Heather Bailey, Executive Director for the foundation, brought both projects to the Oregon team with the purposes and goals clearly defined:

  • The Annual Fundraising Campaign would promote the general work of the foundation and would aim to exceed the prior years’ total donations of $123k.
  • The project campaign would aim to raise $25k to provide funds for upkeep and development at Veteran’s Memorial Park, a Tipp City park that honors area Veterans.

2. Define a target and build your list.

Different causes, and unique campaigns within them, appeal to different types of people. Spend time thinking about your campaign goals and develop a target customer, or a most-likely-to-give prospect, for each.

In Practice: In the case of The Tipp City Foundations campaigns:

  • The Annual Campaign would have a broadly defined target customer, given the work of the Foundation aims to serve all those living and working in Tipp City.
  • The Veteran’s Memorial Park campaign would appeal to an older audience within Tipp City, senior citizens.

With a target customer in mind, you’re ready to start building your mailing list. The natural place to start this list is with past donors – people you already know have engaged with your organization and have been willing to support are solid bets for future donations. But, don’t stop there!

Extend the reach of your fundraising campaign by purchasing a targeted mailing list through vendors who specialize in fundraising databases. Consider factors like geography, income, and past interest in philanthropy to match prospects to your target customer profile.

In Practice: Oregon worked with Tipp City on both their Annual Campaign and the Veteran’s Park Memorial Campaign to extend their in-house prospect lists by defining list criteria and purchasing databases.

  • For the Annual Campaign, Oregon looked at Tipp City homeowners who had given to any cause in the past. This provided Tipp City with more than 3,000 new prospects to message.
  • For the Veteran’s Park Memorial campaign, we purchased a list of homeowners aged 60+ in the Tipp City zip codes.

3. Craft your message.

Storytelling is a powerful vehicle for proving to your audience that their donations change lives and have an impact. Ensure that your story, or message, gives your prospect a way to emotionally connect with your cause. Then, enhance that message by using variable data tactics to personalize communications. Adding a prospect’s name to a donation request can be hugely impactful.

In Practice: The Oregon team helped The Tipp City Foundation refine and enhance their fundraising communications for both their Annual Campaign and the Veteran’s Park Memorial Campaign. Our copywriter looked at the Foundation’s existing communications with fresh eyes and re-crafted them to tell stories about how donations to the Foundation are used to make Tipp City a more beautiful, functional place to live, work, and play.

4. Don’t forget design.

Any piece of direct mail, whether for a nonprofit or not, must stand-out on receipt to be effective. Think about the look of your mailer as you’d think about crafting an effective subject line for an important email – it must pique a recipient’s interest to even be opened.

Consider adding a campaign image or themed brandmark to the exterior of your mailing (if you’re employing an envelope) and include photography or other relatable imagery on the piece itself.

In Practice: Oregon was thrilled to help The Tipp City Foundation design all elements of their 2017 campaign mailers.

For the Annual Campaign, we developed a campaign slogan and created a unique stamp to carry it through the creative. Click here to read more about the Annual Campaign theme and design.


For the Veteran’s Memorial Park Campaign, we featured imagery of the park itself as well as of local Veterans to connect with our audience.


5. Track results!

There are many ways to track direct mail campaign success. From offering a tear-off self-mailer on your piece to directing recipients to a unique URL that is specific to your mailer, you can identify exactly which campaign delivered your donors. Pick a method that works for you and be sure to have a process in place internally to keep track of and record submissions.

When results are tied 1:1 to marketing efforts, it is easy to discover metrics like total donations, new donors, and campaign ROI. Having this data available enables you to inform future marketing decisions.

In Practice: We’re happy to report that both campaigns we ran with The Tipp City Foundation were successful in meeting or exceeding their goals.

The 2017 Annual Campaign delivered $166,129, a 34% increase in donations when compared to the prior year. Tipp City also realized 147 new donors in 2017, further proof that going outside of their in-house mailing list was a successful endeavor.

The Veteran’s Park Memorial Campaign, which was run over two years, succeeded in meeting its goal of $25,000 and The Tipp City Campaign was able to provide the substantial endowment to the park for ongoing maintenance. This campaign also succeeded in attracting new donors, 45 to be exact.


Ready to get started on revitalizing your fundraising efforts? Download Oregon’s free guide to Fundraising for Direct Mail on our Resources page, which also includes a handy campaign-planning checklist. Then, give us a call at 937.222.9418 to kick-off your project.