Neuroscience Shows Direct Mail Matters for Non-Profits

canstockphoto16850474Direct mail and neuroscience? Who knew?

On Sept. 15 Direct Marketing News reported that the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service is seeking neuroscientists to research the role direct mail plays in consumer buying decisions and engagement.

The Office of the Inspector General of the USPS foresees that the findings of his new study will have great implications for how businesses interact with consumers in the future.

His new endeavor comes on the heels of a recent study facilitated by UK-based Royal Mail. The findings revealed by Royal Mail’s undertaking not only affect the for-profit world, but show proof that direct mail will continue to produce results for not-for-profits as well.

Neuroscience and not-for-profits

It’s not rocket science. Not-for-profits exist to help others. And they rely on others’ help to thrive. That means they must find ways to reach their different audiences which often include the people they serve as well as volunteers and donors.

Making that emotional connection with their audiences is essential, especially for non-profits looking to change the world in a meaningful way.

Social and mobile media are taking over in terms of how organizations interact with consumers. However, a recent case study shows that the emotional response evoked by direct mail walks hand in hand with the imprint not-for-profits are looking to leave in the brains of their stakeholders.

The case study, published in 2009, showed how team members from Millward Brown and Bangor University used neuroscience to track the emotional response produced by direct mail.

The study’s key findings included:

  • Tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain
  • Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater “internalization” of the ads
  • Physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations

So, how should not-for profits continue to use direct mail to interact with their audiences moving forward? Probably in just the same ways they had been doing so before:

To Inform/Educate

Non-profits can use direct mail to promote its own upcoming events. Non-profits can also provide helpful tips or other bits of information to the people they serve. For example, if the not-for-profit is children-centered, then mailing parents and children local school updates or a list of family oriented fall activities in their communities is a surefire way to engage that specific audience.

To Fundraise

While it is easy to click “donate” on a computer screen, offering a tangible reminder of the fundraiser and the option for donors to send in their payments proves essential. Non-profits want to connect donors to their cause, partly because they need financial backing to carry out their mission. That’s why on paper, non-profits should spell out their achievements and show how their services have improved the lives of those they serve. Plus, non-profits should not ignore the fact that there are often people who just prefer to send in their donation.

To Thank

Thank-you notes, postcards or letters are obviously an integral part of the not-for-profit world. And it should be common sense that a physical thank-you note trumps an eCard any day. Donors undoubtedly appreciate the thought and time that goes into crafting a well-versed written expression of gratitude. And finding a way to include a personal touch is always the way to go.

It’s clear. Scientists are proving that direct mail is still relevant in this digital age. Non-profits should be reassured of the power of direct mail to leave deeper footprints and engender emotional responses in the minds of volunteers, donors and the people they serve moving forward.

4CP, Inc. is committed to helping not-for-profit groups with their direct mail campaigns. Contact us for your next project.

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