Non-Profit Mail Overload

I receive enough solicitations in the mail from non-profit organizations to fill a 10-ream paper box every couple of months. I don’t think I have ever seen it this bad. I know that needs are great and worthwhile causes many, but giving $25 to an organization supporting cause xyz should not result in a dozen other organizations supporting similar causes mailing me multiple times each year.

There has to be a better way. Catalog companies had to solve this problem decades ago because of the expense of printing and mailing catalogs to existing and prospective customers. You mail your best customers often, those who don’t spend much or purchase infrequently less often, and prospective customers maybe once in a great while.

If the U.S. Postal Service continues to have financial problems, one source of revenue would be to increase the non-profit postage rate, and that would force many non-profit organizations to use a more sophisticated approach for their mailings.

Why not start now? I’d like to see a non-profit organization established whose sole purpose is to help other non-profit organizations to mail donors and prospective donors efficiently. Let’s give it a placeholder name: Nonprofit Mailing Association (NMA). Each participating non-profit organization would confidentially provide their donor lists and contribution history for each donor to NMA, and NMA in turn would use the data received from your organization and other non-profit organizations to rank-order donors based on likelihood to contribute and amount likely to contribute.

In the marketing business, this process is called “modeling”. Each model needs to take into consideration the amount you give (are you a $25 or $500 donor?), the frequency you give (monthly, 2-3 times a year, annually, or every couple of years or so), and to which non-profits. Other behaviors need to be taken into account. Does the donor tend to support organizations that they seek out directly, or are they more likely to respond to prospect mailings?

This modeling will result in fewer mailings but a lower acquisition cost per donor. From a donor standpoint, hopefully this will stop frequent mailings to individuals who have never donated to an organization. Once a year is often enough. Anything more borders on harassment. Besides, is the average person more likely to look at a non-profit mailing if they receive one in the mail on average each day or ten?

This approach should also apply to political organizations.

Using a more sophisticated approach to non-profit mailings will result in lower mailing and printing costs for the non-profit, and less printed material ending up in the recycling stream or—more often—the landfill.