Forget Direct Mail. Why Your Nonprofit Should be Crowdfunding Instead

Posted By Steph Silva


Photo via Landerholm on Flickr

Nonprofits tell me all the time that their fundraising is stuck in the mail – direct mail to be exact. Here’s how one nonprofit executive from a very large organization explained the problem, and the solution I offered. 

“Joe, our direct mail efforts are still working, but it’s costing us a fortune. And most people who donate through direct mail are in their 60s, 70s and 80s! We can’t rely on these people forever. We need something new that Generation X, Y & Z will respond to. What can I do?”

“The answer to your problems is in your pocket,” I explained.

“Umm…hand my business cards out at more events?” he asked as he fished in his pockets.

“No, it’s your phone, silly. You have one on you, right?”

“Of course I do. Who doesn’t.”

“Exactly,” I replied. “Smartphones are Millennial mailboxes. Just as Baby Boomers and earlier generations relied on the mail to give, younger generations check their phones. Specifically, it’s how younger people use their phones that matters.”

Crowdfunding is the New Direct Mail

Giving is different for Millennials than for other generations. They’ve grown up giving online via crowdfunding campaigns. That’s their direct mail.

When Millennials give they go to popular fundraising websites like:

Through these platforms organizations and individuals are able to raise funds for any cause!

And as a nonprofit you should consider the following reasons to fuel your push into crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is Fun

When I was a kid I used to like getting things in the mail. I’d run home to check the mailbox every day. These days people are watching for deliveries on online social networks. People get to talk to their friends, share goofy photos and “Like” everything they see.

Challenges like the Ice Bucket Challenge proved that crowdfunding is Millennial entertainment. Your nonprofit should put itself at the very center of what Millennials find fun and interesting.

Crowdfunding Has an Impact Donors Can See

Millennials want to make a different they can see. They don’t want to give to the United Way because their parents did or because their boss asked them to. They want to see the fruits of their donation. Crowdfunding allows them to meet an immediate need, and satisfies their craving to be relevant, current and impactful.

Crowdfunding Gives You Maximum Visibility

If crowdfunding is gasoline, social media is the match. The two go hand in hand. Too many nonprofits are trying to bend Millennial interests to do what they want them to do – like going to meaningless events. But that doesn’t work. Using crowdfunding means that you go where your audience is, and that audience is on social media.

Crowdfunding Meets the Need for Speed

Your average Millennial jumps from one thing to another. Also, being a digital native means they want to accomplish things quickly. Crowdfunding is a quick and easy way for Millennials to donate to their favorite causes and easy for you to become an expert in just by reading up on a few blogs like IdeaPlotting which has excellent crowdfunding advice or Crowd101 which lists out the top crowdfunding platforms for different types of causes.

Don’t expect Millennials to find a stamp and envelope on your behalf. Use their tools to meet them where they are and how they want to give.

Crowdfunding Gives Younger Donors the Options They Want

Direct mail means giving in a way that the nonprofit prefers – with cash and through the mail. Crowdfunding on sites like Booster allow supporters to wear their support with t-shirts. They also have the option of buying a shirt AND making a donation. Or just making a donation.

There are tons of products that your nonprofit can choose to pair with crowdfunding. The goal is to provide something that rewards donors for making a donation!

Crowdfunding is Less Wasteful

As a cause marketer who works with businesses on register programs that include “paper icons” I know firsthand that Millennials are committed to lower expenses and less paper waste. Just six percent of respondents to this survey said they prefer “paper icons.” Same goes with their feelings on direct mail. What a waste of resources and energy!

Of course, the cost of crowdfunding is substantially less.

Direct mail still has its place with older donors, but if your goal is to attract younger donors you need to focus on their preferences for vehicle, impact, speed and variety.

Not prioritizing crowdfunding for younger donors is like putting the wrong postage on a letter. Your appeal will go nowhere.

For more information on crowdfunding, check out these resources:

  1. Crowdfunding: 7 Superior Strategies to Raise More Funds for Nonprofits
  2. Types of Nonprofit Software That Can Make Fundraising Easier
  3. Top GoFundMe Alternatives


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