Non Profits — 12 May 2014

By Donna Tschiffely

Lester Wunderman defined the term “direct marketing” in 1967 and probably never imagined how direct response marketing would evolve.

Through direct mail, the industry became the major revenue producer for the U.S. Postal Service. Through direct response television, it brought us such infamous lines such as, “But wait, there’s more!” and “Call Now!” It brought into our homes Ginsu knives, the salad spinner and the ShamWow!

Direct response did not stop with commercial products. Non-profit fundraisers seized the opportunity and entered the scene with telethons and radiothons – all with emotional calls to action. “Cure this child”, “Feed this family”, and “Save this dog”.

The direct response tool kit also included print ads, telemarketing, voicemail marketing, radio, coupons, insert media and grass roots marketing.

bigstock-Young-business-woman-standing--45687961(1)Then BOOM! The Internet came and everything changed!

More than 20 years ago, we added online tools such as email, website and e-commerce. Technology grew more complex, yet more consumer-friendly and more pervasive. Hardware became smaller and multi-functional. Does anybody remember when a phone was just a phone?

Today, our direct marketing arsenal includes online display ads, SEO, SEM, online videos, mobile apps, QR codes, PURLs, digital coupons, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and over 200 social media sites!

Our vocabulary also changed – new words were invented and old words have different meanings. We now Google, tweet, re-tweet, blog, pin, IM, assign hashtags, ping people, connect in the clouds, geotag on Foursquare, take advantage of groupons, have apps (as opposed to Abs), write wikis and use smartphones!

We’ve gone from push marketing to pull marketing; from outbound marketing to inbound marketing; and from monologue to dialogue. We’ve entered the era of engagement — everyone needs to think and act like a direct marketer.

Even with the impact of technology, the fundamentals of direct response marketing and fundraising are as relevant today as they were back in the 1960’s.

The basic foundation of direct marketing and fundraising is still knowing your audience!

The huge diversity of that audience has complicated our messaging efforts. We have specific messages for ethnic groups, as well as for the different age groups. We are also experiencing a first in marketing and fundraising, as our audiences are now comprised of FOUR generations – each one requiring their own unique messaging style.

The Civic Generation: People aged 69 and older, who are widely known as the Greatest or Silent Generation. Direct mail works best with them and they feel the most comfortable with sending a donation via check. But they are surprisingly Internet savvy – the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, using it to stay in touch with family and friends.

Next are the Baby Boomers: People who are 50-68, the so-called Me Generation is also the largest with 78 million. Baby Boomers are flush with over $1 Trillion in spending power per year and are the largest group of donors. Direct mail works for them as well – but once they receive the direct mail piece, they are more likely to go to the charity’s website to donate. It has been noted that the Baby Boomers are driving the rapid growth in online fundraising.

The Baby Boomers bred 48 million Gen X’ers, aged 35-49, also known as X’ers, Baby Busters, and the Home Depot-IKEA generation. Gen X’ers are the original latchkey kids; fiercely independent, they value change, techno-literacy, skepticism, and believe “work is just a job.”

Messaging to them requires creating lasting loyalty through extreme candor. Technology needs to drive the transaction, communicate faster and empower Gen X’ers to make independent decisions. Your tools and how you communicate with Gen X’ers all say something about your tech-friendliness.

Finally, we come to the 14-34 age group, the Millennials – also known as the Echo Boomers and Gen Y, who are 76 million strong.

The Y’s want to be special and unique – suits and ties are not necessary with this crowd. Gen Y will start and finish everything in life online. There is no desire for tangible, brick-and-mortar. Without internet marketing, you won’t capture the Gen Y consumer – and they are the future. Their social life is driven by the Internet. Life is done with the smart phone.

While Boomers may have the money, the consumer base is dominated by the X’ers & the Y’s. In fact, in 2015 there will be more X’ers & Y’s in the workforce than any other generation. It’s time to nurture those two generations into the philanthropic fold – before the Civic Generation and Baby Boomers disappear.

We have more tools than ever to reach our audiences. Traditional marketing can still work just as effectively as digital media and there is nothing that says you must use all of the tools. You just need to use the right ones to reach your donors.

Tschiffely_DonnaDonna Tschiffely, executive director of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW), is president and owner of Conference Incorporated, which provides association management services to the DMAW and the DMAW Educational Foundation as well as conference management services to a variety of other for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Marketing to the generations is just one of the more than 70 topics that will be covered at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference to be held July 9-11, 2014. Over 1,600 professionals will descend on the Gaylord National Hotel outside of Washington, DC, to hear from the more than 150 speakers who will offer best practices, case studies and share ideas that can be used by both the direct marketer and fundraiser.

To learn more about the Bridge Conference and the topics to be addressed, visit



About Author

Donna Tschifflely, Direct Marketing Association of Washington

Donna is president and owner of Conference Incorporated, which provides association management services to the DMAW and the DMAW Educational Foundation, as well as conference management services to a variety of other for-profit and non-profit organizations.

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