Reinvigorate Your Target Universe

Direct Mail marketing strategy continues to be a staple of the nonprofit industry. And despite the digital shift to mobile, social and other online channels, it remains one of the most effective ways to acquire donors and build long-term relationships that result in future gives. So, amidst rumors that the channel is no longer relevant, direct mail marketers may say otherwise.

What has become less relevant over the years? The old merge/purge techniques, and the expensive, ineffective multi-list sourcing we’ve faithfully (sometimes unknowingly) held onto. But, because we now have access to better technology and analytics capabilities, these old ways of doing things simply don’t cut it anymore. Marketers have opportunities to scale highly-targeted, data rich campaigns that fall on the right ears, and as part of an integrated, cross-channel strategy, direct mail can be a key performance driver.

As we follow the 2016 US Presidential election, direct mail has been a crucial piece of the campaign mix. When it comes to activating niche groups, some candidates have been particularly successful in finding the right message and strategy to motivate loyalty. Ted Cruz, for example, has continued to rank as a favorite amongst Evangelical Christians across the country. Two weeks ago, Cruz came out on top of the Republican Iowa Caucus, and earned the most support from Evangelicals in the state, and more recently in the New Hampshire Primary, he received 23% of the vote from the group. In the spectrum of religions and cultures across the US, Evangelical Christians are somewhat niche, but clearly a very significant audience for him. Over the course of his campaign thus far, Cruz has worked to energize and reawaken Christian conservative voters who didn’t turn out for the previous presidential election. Leading with the insight of their values and way of life, Cruz continues to actively engage this group – which I’m thinking has very much to do with a theme we’re all familiar with: right time, right message, right person.

Engaging a Niche (and Shrinking) Donor File

While the Evangelical audience is increasing in light of election turnouts, the actual US population of Evangelical Christians (out of the total US Christian population) has dropped from 26.3% to 25.4% between 2007 and today, according to the Pew Research Center. This trend directly impacted a Paradysz + PM Digital client over the years, as a substantial part of their target universe is made of this group. The shrinking audience, mixed with costly and ineffective list sources – like the ones I mentioned earlier – ultimately affected their ability to build strategies around the right donors. Without a broader, more complete view of the universe that was really out there, the organization was missing out on crucial support and donations.

I started this discussion by mentioning Ted Cruz’s success in reaching his target audience; and though political campaign tactics certainly differ from that of nonprofits, we might be able to see the correlation between the ways he’s been able to reinvigorate an important audience, and the way nonprofit organizations can do the same with their donor base. So, what’s the solution?

Prospect Database.

If those words elicit thoughts like, “dauntingly complex”, “outside of my budget” or “too time consuming,” then you may not be working with the right solutions. In reality, a Prospect Database solution allows you to diversify across the best media sources, while gaining deeper insights about potential donors – like how they behave on and offline, what their values are and how they relate to you organization’s mission, what propensity they have to donate, and what kind of lifestyle they identify with. All of this data is used to weed out the “sleeping” prospects or donors (and the associated budget) and activate the best ones.


Consider your current database or list sources. Are they capturing those “high performers”? For presidential candidates, consistent and timely access to their target populations is really the engine that drives their campaigns. For Ted Cruz, the evangelical population has proven to be a “high performer,” and his dedicated marketing and communication efforts focused on them have given his campaign a strong platform to lead by. Is it just luck that allows Ted Cruz to find all the Evangelical Christians across the US? Likely not. It’s the right resources. When our client elected to enhance their previous methods with a Prospect Database solution, they were almost immediately exposed to new groups of their target market that were out there, waiting to be engaged. In fact, it led them to find 26% more Evangelical prospects, and ultimately decreased their YoY cost to acquire (CTA) by 19%.

IFCJ InfographicBy segmenting their current donor file, in addition to the new prospects now filtering in, the organization could more easily and cost effectively identify what groups were critical to market to. So while the universe of Evangelicals was shrinking in the grand scheme of things, the organization’s universe was in fact expanding because of better targeting, personalization and execution of their campaigns.

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