UK charities who stand to lose £4 billion because of the Covid-19 pandemic, are considering greater use of direct mail to keep in contact with donors and supporters to bring in revenue.
There is little alternative: conventional fund raising campaigns, from bucket shaking outside supermarkets to sponsorship revenue from the London Marathon, are outlawed. In many cases the speed of the lockdown has extended the decision making process and only now are fundraising efforts kicking into gear.
The Chartered Institute of Fundraising is preparing a guide to the use of direct mail, to be published before the end of the month. A spokesman says: “It’s about helping fundraisers to take the decision to use direct mail if it’s right for them at a time that charities cannot engage in their normal fund raising activities.”
This is timely as Royal Mail has included fund raising mailings as part of an incentive package to stimulate the use of mail. Charities seeking donations joins retailers aiming to drive online sales, publishers seeking subscriptions, entertainment businesses, mailings to vulnerable customers and mail shots to thank customers for their loyalty. The Covid-19: Open for business scheme offers postage discounts until December.
It has been welcomed by Judith Donovan, chair of the Strategic Mailing Partnership. She says: “This offer is a lifeline for organisations that need to communicate with their customers, whether it’s to tell them about what they offer or to simply thank them for their loyalty.
“It’s also excellent news for our members. Mailing houses have had to adapt to new ways of working so they can continue to provide essential services such as producing documents for banks, local government and the NHS, so hopefully they too will benefit from an increased demand for marketing mail.”
There is no requirement on minimum or maximum volumes and the scheme covers Partially Addressed Mail, Responsible and Advertising Mail. And other categories may be added at a later date. “The impact of coronavirus will continue for months, so I am delighted that the offer will be available until December, providing long term support,” Donovan adds.
It is timely and will be welcomed by charities. Isla Munroe, managing director of Scottish marketing agency Dragonfly, says that one charity prepared and released an emergency appeal mailing for a selected 10% of its database, this coming a couple of weeks after another was able to increase its database by 25% as a result of mailing two weeks earlier.
There has been an increasing volume of inquiries to direct mail printers from both the third sector and from commercial companies wanting to keep in touch with customers and lapsed customers. “We furloughed a lot of staff,” says Go Inspire CEO Patrick Headley. “But not in the Connect division which is dealing with charities, many doing more and more campaigns, some started before the lockdown was announced. In short where some parts of the business have been decimated, while in the charity division we are operating at normal levels of business.”
Others have been quiet, not helped by a broken decision making chain with charities having furloughed some staff, and many working from home, making what one printer calls “a notoriously slow decision making process” even more drawn out. There are indications, however, that the cashflow pressure they are under is forcing the decision to use print.
Jonathan Tame, chief executive of Two Sides, adds: “I was talking to the marketing manager of a charity based in Jersey with an income of around £30 million, facing a shortfall. He told me he was considering a return to paper based communications as it is important to get the cut through they need.
“When the Government wanted to talk to people to observe social distancing, it used print as the tried, tested and only way to ensure it could get through. Print works.”
With other channels locked off, charities are looking at direct mail as a means to raise much-needed revenue. But with working from home in place to exacerbate lengthy decision chains, orders are slow to come through.