‘Tis the season for a flooded email inbox, full of retail doorbusters. I can hardly go a few minutes without hearing the telltale ding of yet another email making its home in my spam folder.

For retailers with bottomless budgets, the holidays signal an increase in advertising spend, which is why your Facebook feed is a lot more ad-heavy than usual right now. For years, digital ads have become the favorite tactic among the retail giants: In 2018, Best Buy spent $5.9 million on digital ads for Black Friday alone, a number only projected to increase. Even as companies continue to up their ad spend, so too does consumer buying activity. Indeed, 2019 marked the first holiday season to pass the trillion-dollar mark in retail sales, raking in $1.007 trillion.

Ironically, this so-called “giving season” heyday tends to overlook the one sector actually associated with generosity: nonprofits. While we’re lucky to have so many amazing organizations in Kansas City, the clutter of online ads and fierce competition for consumer attention can drown out many nonprofits’ fundraising efforts during the holidays.

Within the nonprofit industry, there’s significant pressure to adapt to the new digital landscape in order to stay afloat. And when you couple that with the myth that print marketing is on its last legs, many nonprofit decision-makers mistakenly abandon tried-and-true tactics like direct mail and print ads. Yet, marketing strategies aren’t one-size fits all, and failing to diversify your media mix can cause you to miss out on potential donors.

Diversify to better deliver your message

I have to admit it: The appeal of digital advertising is strong. From keywords to fancy data dashboards, campaigns can now be created and deployed in a matter of minutes to audience segments. For the holiday retail giants, this strategy is especially effective because it relies on getting your ad in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Nonprofits, however, are a different story.

In 2018, Google measured click-through rates (CTR) for both search and display ads. They found across all industries the average CTR is only around 0.46%, a rather dismal figure for so-called “targeted” advertising. Digital marketing requires a huge prospect pool – and ad budget – to be effective, two things nonprofits don’t have in abundance.

Plus, when it comes to fundraising, clicks are only half the battle. Encouraging potential donors to actually submit a donation is an uphill battle. Low conversion rates are why marketers recommend an integrated advertising approach, combining digital campaigns with print, as this Forbes article explains:

“The perception that a quick and easy ‘digital-only’ route will suffice – or that direct mail is a difficult, antiquated, low-performing channel – should be debunked. When planned and executed correctly, using data coupled with strong mail piece design and the right CTA, you can successfully diversify your marketing campaign.”

In contrast to digital, print performs quite well. Research found the average response rate to direct mail was 9% in 2018, nearly 19 times higher than cost-per-click ads. As a tactile medium, direct mail leaves a high-quality impression with consumers, triggering a more emotional response. Not only will this lead to a better ROI for your dollar, but it can help build your brand presence with a loyal donor base.

More than other businesses, nonprofits need to establish trust with their audiences. Spamming your prospects’ inboxes or bombarding them with pop-up ads is a great way to lose potential donors. When your budget is tight, you need your ads to go the extra mile and develop your reputation. One recent study found that print ads actually topped the list of trustworthy marketing tactics. Coming in at last place? Pop-ups.

Print tips to power your fundraiser

As giving season marches on, it’s not too late to reach your donor pool. With the right message in place, incorporating print into your marketing strategy can give your fundraiser a boost headed into the new year. Here are a few ways you can make print work for you this season:

1.      Combine print with digital

Done well, print can help drive traffic to your social channels or website. Using QR codes or personalized URLs (PURLs) is a great way to give your site a traffic boost and gain a follower or two. Leveraging tracking on your direct mail can also help you coordinate the timing of your digital efforts.

2.      Functional

Print gives you the opportunity to extend the lifespan of your campaign by creating pieces that can be repurposed. Calendars and refrigerator magnets are great examples of long-lasting promotional items that will remain on your donors’ refrigerators and desks for a long time, giving your ads more mileage.

3.      Make donations simple

While most nonprofits offer the ability to donate online, you might be missing out on cash or check donations. Consider creating branded envelopes with pre-paid postage to make it easier for your supporters to slip in a check and mail it back to you. Removing any roadblocks from the donation process will help your fundraiser run smoothly and will improve the donation experience as a whole.

Just remember, the “death of print” is a marketing myth, especially for nonprofits seeking a more impactful way to reach their audience. While the convenience of digital marketing is appealing, it’s effectiveness is losing its shine. The quality of print can leave a lasting impression with donors and give your nonprofit an edge this holiday season.

Dan Woehrman is owner of Callender Printing, offering full-service printing capabilities – including letterpress, offset and digital – with union craftsmen quality. Share your thoughts on Facebook or on Twitter @CallenderPrint.