When it comes to choosing the right marketing channel for your nonprofit fundraising, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each option. The two most prominent fundraising channels for nonprofits are direct mail and email. Both of these, when used well, can bring much-needed funds to a charity’s tight budget. Here are the pros and cons of mail vs. email. 

If you’re new to these fundraising channels or looking to improve your organization’s results, we’ve pulled together some resources to get you moving toward industry best-practices. These tips can help you step up your email campaigns and make sure you’re getting the most from your fundraising efforts. 

Both direct mail and email appeals can be a little daunting to get started with, but this guide to writing an effective fundraising letter will set you off on the right foot toward either channel you choose.

Direct Mail

Direct mail has been around for a long time, and it’s been the biggest fundraising channel since it’s inception. The gist of direct mail is simple and similar to any other direct channel; send mail asking for donations and get gifts back from recipients. For more details and everything you need to know about direct mail as a fundraising channel, this guide is a great place to start. 

For now, let’s discuss a few of the most prominent benefits and drawbacks of each main fundraising channel:

Pros

1. Highest Response Rates

There is no other mass communication method that beats direct mail response rates. Something about physical mail drives donors to give more frequently when compared to other channels.

2. Ease of Use

Getting started in direct mail is as simple as writing a letter and mailing to your donors or prospects. Using these five steps to solicit donations from direct mail, you’ll be well on your way to fundraising success.

Cons

1. Initial Price

The upfront cost of direct mail is generally higher than other channels. While the high response rate brings positive returns, the initial spending can sometimes be a little scary.

2. Timing

Direct mail has a slower feedback loop than digital channels. Mail gets sent out and weeks pass before you see any response. However, this doesn’t have to be an issue if you make sure to capture thorough response data as it arrives.

Email

Email marketing has been around since the birth of the internet and works much like direct mail – just using a digital inbox instead of a physical one. And just like every channel, getting and keeping recipients engaged is crucial. 

You’ll want to make sure that your email appeals make use of best practices for asking for donations, and that you follow these tips for email marketing to get the most from your efforts.

Specifically, here are some pros and cons of using email as a fundraising channel:

Pros

1. Cost-Effective

Email is one of the cheapest ways to directly reach donors or prospects. Because of its low prices, the return on investment almost always justifies the use of this channel.

2. Ease of Use

Email is just as easy to do as direct mail with the right tools (Mailchimp is fantastic). Simply create your email, upload a list, and voila – you have your email campaign. 

Cons

1. Low Open/Response Rates

By nature of how many emails people get on a daily basis, emails are often never looked at. The low cost to use this channel means that you’ll still generally see positive returns, but expect less than single-digit response rates for your email campaigns.

2. Need for Frequent Email

Email marketing works best when an organization is utilizing the channel frequently with updated emails. You’ll need to plan on communicating via email on a regular basis if you want to see real results.

Best Case Fundraising

Every fundraising channel can function individually, but putting in the effort to fundraise via multiple channels will always drive the best results. There is a reason that for-profit companies fill both your physical and digital inboxes with marketing material – getting in front of the donor more often and in more ways drastically increases their likelihood to give to your organization.