To Print or Not to Print

Photo by Portland Afoot via Flickr

Nonprofit organizations are doing more of their marketing and fundraising electronically – by email, on their website, and through social media.  It makes sense. It’s more cost effective, good for the environment, and most of us are very connected to our computers and mobile devices.

Does this mean that print is obsolete? No. Print still has a place in your marketing and fundraising. How much depends on your audience. If your donors and other supporters are older, they may respond better to print pieces, although many of us are now connected electronically.

Often you’ll want to use print and electronic mediums together in your marketing and fundraising campaigns. This means all your messages need to be consistent.

Are there times that you should still use print pieces?  Sometimes, yes.  Here are a few examples:

Fundraising letter
I think you should still mail out a fundraising letter. Direct mail fundraising continues to be strong, although online giving is on the rise.  According to a study by Target Analytics, 81% of 2011 gifts came in through direct mail. If you only send out your fundraising appeal electronically, it could get lost in your donor’s barrage of email messages. We get far more email than print mail.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use electronic methods as well. You can send out an email message telling donors to look out for your latest fundraising letter. You can also send out reminders by email and social media and post donation appeals on your website.

Thank you letter
Even if someone donates online and gets an electronic acknowledgement, I think you should mail out a thank you letter or card (within 48 hours, of course). The email receipt is more of a reassurance to the donor that their contribution didn’t get lost in the netherworld.  The advantage of a letter is that you can personalize it with a handwritten note.  A letter or a card is always more personal than email.  
Event invitation
If you are holding a fundraising event, I would recommend a print invitation over an evite. Your higher dollar, older donors may respond better to a print invitation with a reply card. And, and if done well, it can look really classy.

Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t use electronic channels to promote your event.  You can email out a save the date announcement. Of course, you should also have an option for people to reserve and pay online, and you can promote your event by email, on your website, and through social media.

If cost is an issue, you could get a printer to create your invitation pro bono or ask a business to sponsor it.

I still think nonprofit organizations should have a brochure or some type of information piece to hand out to donors, potential volunteers, people who visit your office, or event attendees.  It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should be eye catching and look professional. You could even do it in house.  I realize most organizations have a website, but if you are at a recruitment event and only give a potential volunteer a link to your website, they may not go there.  A brochure can capture the highlights of your organization in an instant.

These are a just a few examples of marketing and fundraising materials that can work well in print. What types of materials do you still print?

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