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Introduction to Direct Mail

What is Direct Mail?

Direct mail, in its simplest form, is a strategy of sending a "form letter" – often with accompanying information – to hundreds or thousands of people via the mail.

Direct mail is the written communication that you receive from groups, organisations, businesses or authorities that endeavours to get you to join a club, buy products or goods, vote in council elections (if done by post) or solicit for donations or funds.

The use of direct mail as a fundraiser dates back some decades. It was first used in the US in the 1964 presidential campaign – where Republican candidate Barry Goldwater harnessed "mass mail solicitations" to raise campaign funds.

As a method of fundraising and communication it continues to grow in popularity, and has been further enhanced by the use of databases, lists and other tools which can help groups better target the recipients of their direct mail-out.

What the 'Stats' Say

For community groups, organisations, charities and not-for-profits, direct mail remains a favoured tool both here and overseas:
  • A 2007 survey from the UK's Fundraising Standards Board; Signed, Sealed and Delivered - What the Public Think of Charity Direct Mail – surveyed a selection of established donors and found:
    • 53% thought that direct mail was a good way for charities to raise money for their work.
    • Half did not mind charities contacting them on a regular basis to raise money.
    • Direct mail that is specifically addressed to the recipient is more likely to be read.
  • A 2003 independent study commissioned by Australia Post – Reaching Consumers in the Information Age – found:
    • Personally addressed (direct) mail was the preferred media option for club and sporting organisation members and supporters to receive advertising or promotional information about their group; with 35% of those surveyed saying it was their preferred option.
    • For non group members or supporters, addressed mail was fourth (15%) as preferred way to receive advertising or promotional information from clubs and sporting groups.
    • Personally addressed mail (34% of those surveyed) was by far the preferred media for charity group members, donors and supporters to receive promotional information and advertising material.
    • For non members, donors or supporters of charities, personally addressed mail ranked third (16% - just behind television) as their preferred way of receiving advertising or promotional information.
  • A UK study by Royal Mail and Charities Aid Foundation found:
    • Charity donors recruited by direct mail gave 5-10% more than those recruited by other means, and
    • Organisations in the not-for-profit sector account for 8.6% of consumer direct mail.
  • Australia Post figures in 2002 indicated that:
    • The amount spent overall on direct mail in Australia increased by 70% between 1995 and 2002, yet the average Australian household only received 2.3 items of direct promotional or advertising mail a week.
    • Charities made up the second biggest proportion of total direct advertising mail at 22% - only behind the finance/banking/insurance sector.

(More statistics and research on direct mail are available in the Research section of the Marketing, Media and Post Centre.

Reasons Direct Mail is Used as an Advertising Medium

  • It is personal:
You talk to an individual on a one-to-one level. It's you and the customer.

You have more time to persuade, convince and engage those receiving your mail-out. You can ask them a direct question, and encourage a direct response.

  • It is responsive:
Mail is the most likely form of communication to get a response from a recipient.

Physically, because you often actually supply the means of response - which can include coupons, reply cards, application forms or telephone numbers.

But also in terms of a response, because you are conveying your message to people at a time of their choosing, when they are more receptive to those messages.

  • It is cost-effective:
Mail provides a very affordable way to sell to people your message, and elicit a response.

Targeting, profiling and segmentation all help maximise return on time and money spent, as well as minimise wastage.

And there are other savings to be made: a printed response-form, for example, gathers exactly the information you need, at a fraction of the cost of a phone call.

  • It is measurable:
You can measure the exact cost of every response.

Mail is a continuous learning process: the data collection and analysis on mail campaigns can deepen your understanding of your direct mail-out audience.

What you learn can provide return-on-investment information that will help refine your next campaign. Each mailing can be more effective and more precisely targeted than the last.

What's In This Section?

The Mail Marketing section of the Media, Marketing and Post Centre is divided into four parts:
  • Planning direct mail.
  • Creating direct mail.
  • Printing direct mail, and
  • Posting direct mail.
Each part contains help sheets that can guide your group or organisation through preparing, compiling and distributing a successful direct mail campaign.


The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.

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(PO Box 354 North Melbourne 3051 Victoria)
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