Best Practices for Nonprofits That Want to Stop Mailing the Wrong Donors

At a recent quarterly meeting reviewing donor mailing, a prominent nonprofit discovered that they and their agency had been over-mailing almost 20,000 pieces many times a year for over 10 years. Yes, potentially millions of direct mail pieces that should never have been mailed. 

How does that even happen?    

In this case, it was a checkbox that was mistakenly checked while creating the original donor file. This mistake kept these otherwise lapsed donors active even after they had stopped giving years before. In all fairness, there was little or no reason for the nonprofit or agency to question these donor files, as they were identified and reported on in the same way as other regular and frequent givers. 

The only way these lapsed donors made it off the list was if the donor requested to be removed or if they were found to be deceased.

Even as the agency did its regular cleansing of the nonprofit’s mailing list, it was actually keeping the contact information of these lapsed donors current so they could continue to be mailed. 

There is a bittersweet happy ending to this story: the ROI on this nonprofit’s direct mail will improve significantly once the over-mailing ends.  

Looking Elsewhere for Answers

Nonprofits can learn a lot from their for-profit counterparts. In fact, catalog companies should be studied by any nonprofit doing direct mail, as these catalogers only remain profitable by knowing when to stop mailing. In other words, knowing who not to mail and when to stop mailing keeps them in business. 

Direct mail wonks call this data science and it is available to nonprofits today. The good news is that it is not complicated or expensive even by nonprofit standards. By randomly sampling your nonprofit’s donor list, a good data scientist can not only tell you who to mail, but more importantly, who not to mail. 

Data Science Made Easy

Matthew Dubins, Founder of Data Science Consulting, developed a simple to use application, called DonorFocus, for Nonprofits to help decide who to mail and who not to mail; based expressly on your donor’s behavior and their likelihood of giving again. See DonorFocus video.

This app is called DonorFocus and pricing starts at $1,000 annually for smaller Nonprofits.

Insider Information: If requested, Matthew will even run a test guaranteeing that their Data Science will be profitable for you and your Nonprofit before you buy. 

If Data Clean-up is Needed

Finding an experienced Data Clean-up practitioner who really knows Direct Mail is not as easy as it seems. 

Sean Russell, Director of Direct Mail and Data at Information Driven Marketing is one of the good guys in Data Clean-up and someone you will want to know if you are interested in maximizing your direct mail results. Sean has been a go-to for decades so you will feel confident that you will be delighted by the results and value received. 

Is Your Nonprofit over-mailing or mailing the wrong donors?

The Global Center for Nonprofit Excellence helps Nonprofits achieve operational excellence by introducing them to Industry Experts vetted in one of the six areas of Nonprofit Best Practices. Once vetted, they are called Recognized Experts

Recognized Experts are known and proven best-in-class providers who consistently demonstrate competence, reliability, benevolence and integrity with their clients and other professionals.

Matthew and Sean (and their companies) highlighted in this post are both Recognized Experts in their specialties in the Best Practice area of Marketing, Fundraising & Communications. Please feel free to contact them directly or we would be glad to personally introduce you.

If you or anyone you know is outstanding in their specialty serving Nonprofits, please visit for more information about becoming a Recognized Expert.  

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Marc is Co-Founder and Principal Advisor of The Center. For the previous 12 years, Marc served full-time as executive and practitioner in three significant yet very different nonprofits, overseeing extensive domestic and international operations.