Charities are counting on door drops to attract new supporters

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Charities are counting on door drops to attract new supporters

Charities are increasingly turning to door drops* as a way of attracting new supporters.

We’ve been seeing this with our clients for a while now, and the stats back it up. Our delivery partner Whistl have shared some research by Ebiquity with us, that shows that overall door drop volumes were up +2% year on year in Q3 of 2016, which in real terms means almost a quarter of a billion (221m) door drop items were distributed throughout the year on behalf of charities.

This is further supported by research shared by Charles Neilson, Whistl’s Director of Postal Affairs, at a recent DMA event. This showed that market share for door drops has increased by 31% over the past 5 years, while Direct Mail volumes were down 11% (Neilsen AdDynamix October 2016).

It’s a trend that might seem counter-intuitive at first. At a time when many organisations are grappling with digital transformation and CRM personalisation, why are charities leaning more on one of the most traditional, even old-fashioned, forms of advertising?

We’re going to look at some of the reasons door drops are gaining new prominence in the fundraising toolkit.

Cold direct mail is no longer as effective

Whilst a number of large charity brands moved away from cold mail some years ago, many have until recently been reliant on the pulling power of cold Direct Mail, because of attractive response rates and strong acquisition ROI.

However, falling cold list performance, new regulations around data protection and rising costs have resulted in a marked drop in cold DM performance.

Investment in door drop campaigns has risen as a result, and it seems to be working. Whistl have shared statistics with us that suggest door drops are proving increasingly effective when it comes to fundraising.

For example, in Spring of 2015 The Alzheimer’s Society saw a 37.6% improvement in ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) and 50% improvement in ADV (Average Donation Value) compared to the same period in 2012. Similarly, The Scottish SPCA saw a 60% improvement in response rates and 38% improvement in ROMI during the same time frame.

This mirrors our own experience - we are seeing a continued strong take up of door drop across our non-profit client base with most clients reporting higher average gifts and better life-time-value figures compared to cold direct mail.

Improved options

The new and improved options available are another factor. The days of using door drops as a fairly blunt instrument are behind us.

It used to be that many charities just used an unaddressed version of their cold DM pack, but we are seeing significant innovation in door drop thanks to more effective targeting, improved digital print production capabilities and the resulting increase in hardworking, high impact formats.

While door drops don’t offer the personalisation options of DM, they do offer coverage of 99% of UK households, and within that, very precise targeting (e.g. location, demographics and type of house).

A team player

Door drops can get excellent results as part of integrated campaigns. Like addressed Direct Mail, they are tangible reminders for people to take action. Of those surveyed for The Private Life of Mail (MarketReach 2015), 92% were driven to online or digital activity as a direct result of receiving mail, and 87% were influenced to make online purchases. The same research found that door drops deliver a comparable performance to OOH (out of home/posters), cinema and online display advertising.

In addition, Whistl’s own research demonstrates that a combination of door drops and direct mail is more effective for driving response. Their analysis showed that:

  • 40% average increase in Direct Mail response rates following a door drop campaign for a leading retail client
  • 38% average increase in response rates when DM and door drops were combined for a financial services client

That said, measuring the impact of door drops and DM can be tricky compared to other media. To address this, the DMA recently hosted an event announcing a new system of measurement for mail.

In the meantime, there are ways to get a clearer picture of the impact of offline channels. The Private Life of Mail report includes a Salvation Army case study that highlights the use of econometrics as a measurement tool. This takes a holistic approach rather than taking each channel in isolation – giving charities a much more accurate reflection of how each element contributes to a campaign's effectiveness. Crucially for The Salvation Army, this showed that door drops considerably improved income, despite most supporters using online channels when it came to actually making a donation.

A proven driver of action

Savvy charities are increasingly recognising the lasting power of door drops. Done well, they are a proven driver of action as part of a multichannel campaign. They are also extremely cost effective and with creative use of formats, fundraisers have the opportunity to highlight their cause in innovative, attention-grabbing ways.

Increasingly capable of performing as a ‘one-to-one’ marketing channel, modern door drops also offer excellent coverage and the ability to target specific postcode sectors and demographics with targeted content. 

As with any fundraising medium, it is of course essential to think about how door drops contribute to long-term relationships with individual supporters. Any advertising that arrives through people’s letterboxes will need to earn its place in people’s homes, so door drops require a thoughtful approach that has the entire supporter journey in mind. 

From what we’re seeing, fundraisers – equipped with better options and measurement – are increasingly getting that right.

*For the uninitiated, door drops are a type of print advertising that is delivered directly to people’s homes, usually by the postman, and usually in the form of leaflets or unaddressed mail.

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