Typical Response Rates for Direct Marketing Efforts

Direct marketing is always in support of nonprofit fundraising efforts. You may have caught my earlier posts: “Increasing Donations with Direct Mail Campaigns” and “Testing and Measuring – Optimizing Your Mailing to Maximize Your Results.”

Those posts shared numbers from the Direct Marketing Association’s 2012 survey of response rates. They have published the results from their April 2015 survey.

In addition to the DMA rates, John Connors, founder and president of Campaign Now, has provided the response rates his company has experienced during their years of developing and implementing nonprofit and political direct marketing campaigns.

All this is important as you establish expectations for your campaigns and to help you build fundraising plans that maximize response and, of course, the amount raised.

DMA Response Rates

Here’s what the DMA found in their April 2015 survey for response rates with house lists: 

  • Telephone: 9 to 10%
  • Direct Mail: 3.7% (1.0% for prospect lists)
  • Mobile: 0.2%
  • Paid Search: 0.1%
  • Social Media: 0.1%
  • Email: 0.1%
  • Internet Display Ad: 0.02% 

These numbers didn’t change a great deal from the 2012 survey. The only item of note was that for telephone campaigns the response rate dropped from nearly 13% to the 9–10% range.

Campaign Now Response Rates

Since 2008 Campaign Now has been providing direct marketing services for political and nonprofit campaigns. Here’s what they’ve experienced with response rates:

  • Telephone: 10–20% house file, 4–8% prospect lists
  • Direct Mail: 3–6% house file, 0.5–1% prospect lists
  • Social Media: 0.1% same as DMA
  • Email: 0.5–3% house file

As you can see, there’s clearly a better return on house files for nonprofit and political campaigns. That’s why they’re on the house file, because they support the cause. We hope that this type of support is a bigger deal than the purchase history used to drive DMA house lists.

DMA Cost Per Acquisition

Given those response rates, there are costs associated with each of these direct marketing approaches, some more than others. Here’s what the DMA Survey found for the cost per acquisition for house lists:

  • Direct Mail: $19 ($71 for prospect lists)
  • Mobile: $16–$18
  • Paid Search: $21–$30
  • Social Media: $16–$18
  • Email: $11–$15 ($36–$40 for prospect lists)
  • Internet Display Ad: $41–$50

The telephone numbers from the DMA survey aren’t shown as nearly half of the survey respondents said they don’t know their CPA for telephone campaigns.

DMA Return on Investment

So if you look at the cost per acquisition along with the response rates you start zeroing in on return on investment. Here’s what the DMA survey found:

  • Telephone: 19–20%
  • Direct Mail: 15–17%
  • Mobile: 12–14%
  • Paid Search: 9–10%
  • Social Media: 15–17%
  • Email: 21–23%
  • Internet Display Ad: 6%

So What’s the Takeaway?

Looking just at cost per acquisition and return on investment can sometime cloud your judgement around selecting the best channels to find new donors and increase donations.

Yes, it’s true that email is cheap and can provide a good ROI. And many of the other digital channels offer similar returns. However, if you’re looking for high response rates, telephone campaigns followed closely by direct mail out perform all other channels—combined. Plus, the cost per acquisition for direct mail compares very favorably with all the digital channels.

If you add in the house numbers for nonprofits that Campaign Now provided, you’re looking even better in response and ROI.

All of this also makes a strong case for the integrated campaigns that I discussed in “Integrating a Direct Mail, Email Campaign to Nurture Nonprofit Donors.” They can really pay off in developing more donors through a coordinated full press across all media channels. 

Campaign Now Can Help 

This information further highlights that there are a large number of options for fundraising campaigns. I always recommend working with the experts to help you make the best choices and build strong campaigns that maximize your return and your results.

Campaign Now has substantial experience and expertise working with a wide range of nonprofits, their direct marketing programs, and all aspects of fundraising. Plus, they are getting some very good response rates.

Leverage their expertise for your organization. Give them a call.

Contact them at (855) 329-4327 or info@campaignnowonline.com

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John Connors

John Connors

John is a passionate patriot and business owner. He launched Campaign Now in 2008 to help free-market oriented, American organizations increase their reach and achieve important results. When he’s not strategizing growth plans with clients, you can find him sharpening his history chops, playing tennis in the Texas heat, or spending time with family.


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