Recent research suggests charities are failing to use direct mail effectively, with the number of complaints about it rising – so how could charities breathe new life and invigorate the technique to get the best out of it?

Both addressed and unaddressed direct mail drew 9,462 complaints in 2010, accounting for a significant 53 per cent of all 18,442 complaints reported by charities to the Fundraising Standards Board.

This is a rise of 86 per cent on the previous year, despite the use of direct mail in charity fundraising falling by 27 per cent from 2009 to 2010.

So what could charities do to get the best out of the medium? Sure – they can make sure they keep on top of their data protection and ensure that the people they're sending direct mail to really do want to receive it – but how about making it more interesting as well?

According to marketing consultant Stefan Drew, promotional pens can be an effective complement to direct mail; however, he stressed that it's important they are targeted correctly.

“If you send a direct mail and you put a pen in, there is what is called the law of reciprocity,” he said.

“People will reciprocate – if you give them something, they'll give you something back. If you send them a pen, then that just might work.”

But it is crucial, Mr Drew said, that charities make sure they send the right “branding message” by using good quality promotional gifts.

“I have seen lots of pens made of cardboard and recycled material and are such poor quality, it doesn't send the right branding message to a charity,” he said.

He added that charities should target their marketing to make sure it goes to the right people, as “giving to everybody” would be wasting money.

“It is about linking the right sort of giveaways with the right people,” he said.

“Annual Charity Fundraising Complaints Top 18,000”. www.fsb.co.uk. 

Posted by Cheryl Jackson-Leafield