Using Direct Mail to Simplify the Donor Experience and Drive Online Giving

Using Direct Mail to Simplify the Donor Experience and Drive Online Giving

The advent and growth of cellular technology, mobile devices and wireless internet has created a population that is continuously logged in. It seems that most of what we do – shopping, gaming, dining, entertainment – is literally at our fingertips.

Many decisions made in today’s world are based on accessibility and how quick we can be “in and out” to move to the next thing going on in our lives. These same factors should be considered with your donors.

A giving page is usually static and designed to accept gifts online. While convenient for online giving, there are usually a number of steps needed to complete the giving process. A calling center – or engagement center – may have some personalized information available to the student for purposes of a conversation, but time is necessary to build trust and rapport before confirming a gift.

On the other hand, a single direct mail piece can be personalized and designed to provide a menu of giving options and allow the donor to use the method that is most comfortable to them.

Segmenting and Personalization

With advancements in digital printing, the look of each letter for your constituents can be individualized with information pertaining to their past experiences. For a university or college, you could highlight specific degree programs; for a private high school, you could list the student clubs they were involved in; for a Greek organization, it might be including their initiating chapter or a region where they reside.

The choice of wording within your text can be unique to each person within your segment. It’s not just the messaging you use that can be interchanged, but the images or people that support those experiences.

Saying the right words about your mission and moving the reader to give is the first step. The next step…and perhaps the hardest step… is getting them to take action.

Making the Gift Easy

The length of time it takes someone to make a gift, the more time they have to change their mind. We want to catch them in the moment. Direct mail can be considered an “omni-channel” format for giving. Within a mail piece, a donor will likely see the following options:

    • A reply card/tear off with a reply envelope. This is still the “bread and butter” response mechanism for a direct mail piece. With a personalized pledge form, the donor isn’t filling in all of their contact information. The donor can include a check in the envelope or fill out credit card information, if accepted through mail.
    • Office phone number. Whether it’s a question about a past gift, current gift, recurring giving, or something else, that phone number gives the donor the chance to talk with someone in the office that can look at their donor profile and help answer any questions they may have. In some cases, they may want to make a gift or fulfill a pledge over the phone.
    • URL to your giving page. For many schools, credit cards are only accepted online. Depending on the sophistication of your program, you may have one giving page that covers everything, or specialized pages that support different programs or help to track giving trends.
    • QR Code to your giving page. QR codes are becoming more common as people utilize mobile devices. Instead of typing in a URL, a quick scan using the camera of their mobile device opens the giving page on their phone.

(For both giving page examples, the donor has to fill in contact information, choose a dollar amount and select their preferred fund before making payment.)

Utilizing Digital Wallets

According to Tech Target, a digital wallet is “an online payment tool or software application that serves as an electronic version of a physical wallet.” It is an alternative to a physical wallet managed through a computer or smartphone that facilitates online transactions and eliminates the need to carry cash or credit/debit cards.

There are a number of digital wallet options available, but the main players include:

    • ApplePay (only through Apple products)
    • Google Wallet
    • PayPal
    • Venmo
    • CashApp

These options provide the user a streamlined and expedited checkout process, heightened security that protects personal information and contactless payments removing the need to carry (or search) for money or cards.

In a recent case study by Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL), Santa Clara University’s 2022 giving day featured a digital wallet integration into their giving portal. More than 5,000 donors supported the campaign with 33 percent of gifts coming in through use of the digital wallet.

Brian Gawor, Vice President of Research with RNL, said, “Digital wallet giving can be implemented as part of almost any giving page process, and you set it all up with your payment provider. No separate Venmo or CashApp account is needed – the wallet system simply uses these payment methods to channel gifts to your account. Most major payment providers and giving page platforms can implement this technology today.

“This can literally allow your donors to give in less than a minute, and it’s a game changer.”

While these options are becoming very popular with millennials (more than 118 billion digital payments were processed globally in 2021), most non-profits are required to provide gift receipts to donors. In order to credit gifts to the correct record and provide that receipt, contact information needs to be submitted. What is the next step in streamlining the process?

Personalized Mail and Giving Pages

Direct mail will continue to have a step-up from other giving formats because of the level of personalization it can provide. If there is truly a desire to make the donor experience as fast and transactional as possible, perhaps the next step is to create a personalized URL (or “PURLs”) so each donor has their own giving page.

This page could pre-load all of the same information into the displayed fields as they appear on the direct mail piece and could be edited by the donor as needed.

How does this fit in with direct mail? The QR Code. By including the individual URL for each constituent record on your mailing list, JHL can use our digital processing to convert each of those giving pages as a variable field into a personalized QR code.

Scanning their personalized QR code gives the donor the ability to quickly review their contact information and gift information as seen on their reply card. Whether they use a credit card or digital wallet, the whole process could be completed within a minute allowing the individual to move onto the next thing on their to-do list.


Trying to create PURLs for each of your constituents could be an undertaking that your office doesn’t have the time and resources to handle. Additionally, there would be a need to add records at the end of every semester for graduating classes. An alternative would be to maintain a static URL for non-donors and create a PURL for every donor.

Working with a vendor could be beneficial to minimize office resources, simplify the experience for your donors and find those new donors who have been on the fence in the past. As far as how that giving page is built and integrated into your CRM, there are options. You can choose a vendor that allows you to have information pre-loaded to your giving site or a vendor who builds your site and loads data that you provide to them.

While JHL cannot help specifically with creating personalized URLs, we are fully prepared to take your variable data – no matter its level of complexity – and incorporate it into your upcoming direct mail piece.

By Dan Krueger – April 3, 2023














Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.

Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.