Ryan Higginson, Vice President & UK/ROI Country Leader, Sending Technology Solutions, Pitney Bowes
Charities have reached a tipping point. 75% anticipate higher demand for their services in 2021, but 83% forecast a decline in their income. The impact of cancelled events and fundraisers is intensified by donors’ own economic uncertainty. In 2019, the London Marathon raised a record-breaking £66.4m for charity. In 2020, this was down 75% to £16m as the official race was postponed. Charities reliant on cash donations are also hugely impacted, not only because face-to-face events were cancelled but also because we’re fast becoming a contactless, cash-free society.
It’s no surprise that the Charities Aid Foundation found 42% of charities they spoke to said they were worried about having to reduce the services they offered, and consultancy Pro Bono Economics identified a £10 billion funding gap between income and investiture.
At the same time – and offering some hope – UK citizens’ philanthropic nature seems stronger than ever. The amount raised by Captain Sir Tom Moore for the NHS in 2020 totalled £32.7 million – a record-breaking amount for an individual walk. Almost half the survey respondents in a Charities Aid Foundation/ YouGov survey felt that the pandemic had made them more conscious of people in need in their local communities. In the first six months of 2020, individual giving was £800m higher than the same period in 2019. With the removal of most face-to-face opportunities for donations, not-for-profit organisations are turning to traditional channels to generate funding. Printed mail is driving action, and research shows that – perhaps because it stands out above digital noise - it’s proving more popular than ever before with younger audiences.
Four out of five fundraisers have cited mail as a key part of their fundraising programme, according to the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. Here are eight reasons why mail is proving an invaluable channel for fundraisers in 2021:
Mail matters now more than ever: 40% of respondents in a 2020 study cited by Royal Mail MarketReach agree or strongly agree that being in lockdown made them realise how important mail is to them. 88% reported paying as much or more attention to mail. With more people than ever working from home, the arrival of mail each working day can be a welcome distraction.
Its tone and messaging can be sensitively crafted: maintaining a sensitive message and hitting the right tone has never been as important as it is now. No organisation wants to ostracise itself from communities or individuals. Being mindful of – and sensitive to – each unique different circumstance is critical. A personalised, printed mailing ensures messages are carefully crafted and considered, communicated with gravitas and sincerity.
It has staying power: each item of charity mail is read and revisited 4 times and kept in the home for a week, according to a study from Royal Mail MarketReach. A mailing’s presence in the home reinforces the brand and generates recognition. Recipients can read it at their convenience, and are more likely to give it their full attention than, for example, speed-reading an email with the intention of going back to it.
It’s memorable: there is a proven correlation between mail being tangible and memorable. Remember having to go over your revision notes at school with a highlighter pen? Highlighting on screen just isn’t as effective in getting information etched in your memory. Four in every five people remember a government mailing.
It drives engagement: a record 96% of all mail was engaged with in the first UK lockdown, with the biggest rise in engagement with mail coming from 18-34 year olds: 24% of this age group reported engaging more with mail. In 2020, 16-24 year-olds were least likely to give to charity than any other age group, so this could be a powerful and effective way to drive donations from this difficult-to-reach demographic.
It is powerful and effective as part of a print and social campaign: Total advertising ROI improves by 12% when mail is included in an omnichannel campaign. Joint Industry Committee for Mail (JICMAIL) figures show that 70% of people have been driven towards an online activity by direct mail. I’m sure you’ve done this yourself, whether you’ve used a voucher code from a brochure, or you’ve gone online to find out more information on something you’ve read in the mail. People also spend 30% longer looking at social ads when they’re driven by printed mail. For fundraisers, physical and digital campaigns are not an either/or, but work in tandem to drive results.
It provides an opportunity for storytelling: as respondents keep printed mail to read when they’re ready, it’s ideal for charities telling stories, generating emotion and connecting with their audiences in a genuine way. 93% of fundraisers say mail ‘enhances the supporter experience, building loyalty and engagement’. Engaging, emotive content in the form of storytelling lends itself to the gentle pace of mail.
It’s one of the simplest business processes to automate and outsource – cloud-based sending platforms make it incredibly easy to send cost-effective tracked mail even when charities are working remotely. Similar to other cloud services like Netflix and Peloton, hybrid digital mail and print services are on-demand and subscription-based, so fundraisers can use them at their own convenience. They create digital documents on their desktops or laptops, then – via the platform – encrypt them and send them for print production and mailing, which is all managed offsite. At every stage, documents are tracked providing an audit trail of their journey to final delivery, which means they’re secure and compliant. Some hybrid mail services offer savings on postage, too.
Even before the pandemic, charities were facing the challenges of reduced funding, greater demand for services and a need to invest in digital capabilities. After the turmoil of the past year, there is something welcoming and steadying about mail. With data showing just how powerful and effective it is, it’s easy to see why mail has secured its place in the fundraiser’s master plan.