DickersonBakker Blog

Which is better: direct mail or event fundraising?

After one of my fundraising classes, a participant asked me, “Which is better: direct mail or event fundraising?

“It depends,” I responded.  “Is it better to boil or bake your food?”

You can cook a steak by simply boiling it in a pot of water. Your soggy, bland, gray New York strip will be fully cooked but undesirable. A better approach is to sear that steak on a steaming hot cast iron skillet, then transfer it into a slow oven to finish. Now that is a steak you’ll want to eat! It will be juicy and flavorful with a crisp crust and a rich brown color!

So is boiling/poaching bad and pan frying good? Of course not. It all depends on what your goals are. The key is to be strategic in applying the best cooking method to the food you are preparing.

The same is true with fundraising vehicles. Both direct mail and events have their place in the fundraising lineup. The key is that each fundraising vehicle needs to be used strategically and intentionally.

You can raise money with either vehicle, just like you can cook a steak by boiling or pan frying it. But there are times when an event will be a more strategic choice than direct mail, and vice versa.

Events may work better to:

  • Build a sense of community and excitement about your agency.
  • “Friend-raise.” At events, you have more emotional potential through stories and testimonies about your agency that will touch donors’ hearts. You also have a captive audience.
  • Attract a particular demographic that may not respond as well to direct mail.
  • Reinforce your relationship with loyal donors.
  • Provide an exclusive experience that reinforces your brand.

Direct mail may work better to:

  • Retain donors after they are acquired in an event.
  • Increase your name identification among community members.
  • Quickly reach your donors for a special project or need.
  • Even out cash flow.
  • Connect with a larger audience than an event can attract.
  • Reduce your labor needs (events are lots of work!).

Both direct mail and events have their place. And sometimes you must scrap both vehicles and use a different fundraising vehicle entirely (face-to-face, telefundraising, social media, etc). The key is to be strategic and intentional.

Don’t know if you should boil, sear, bake, or grill? We can help you develop a fundraising strategy that is strategic and attainable. Contact us today!

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