August 13, 2021

3 Ways to Humanize Your Direct Mail


The key word in direct mail is “direct”. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of direct mail is “papers containing advertisements that are mailed directly to people’s homes”.

According to the US Postal Service, 98% of people check their mail daily and Americans spend upwards of 30 minutes with their mail on a single occasion.

Many people, like me, love direct mail because we can touch it, it comes to our homes, and it cuts through the digital noise that many of us experience while at work. Some even say that being able to touch and feel direct mail incites more human emotions than digital platforms do.

It’s simple really. Anything you can do to make your direct mail feel like it was sent by a human vs. a robot, the better. Here are three ways you can give your fundraising appeals a friendly, human touch.

1) Humanize Your Direct Mail Through Personalization

Using variable data printing is a great way to address donors and potential donors by name instead of the form letter that begins “Dear Friend”. Using a person’s real name works.

Write your fundraising appeal as if it was a conversation with a good friend. Address them by first name and make your very first sentence all about them vs. you.

Other ways to personalize your direct mail are to use data collected to customize giving levels to what they have given in the past and to create 1:1 marketing strategies by segmenting your audience according to interests or personas.

For example, a university may want to send a different appeal to their former athletes than they would to their former thespians.

And even though names can show through window envelopes, using a close faced envelope is much more personal. It appears as if more effort was made and doesn’t look like a bill.

Also, if possible, make sure the numbers and bar codes used for your matched mailing are minimal in size and as inconspicuous as possible.

2) Humanize Your Direct Mail Through Handwriting

Handwritten envelopes spark curiosity because they are unusual, and people naturally want to know what’s inside.

Actual handwriting is the ultimate human touch for your nonprofit fundraising direct mail. Handwritten envelopes, signatures and special notes all make more of a human connection.

However, if quantities don’t accommodate that kind of time or budget, then using a font that appears as if it was handwritten will give your piece a more approachable, conversational appearance.

3) Humanize Your Direct Mail Through Live Stamps

The kind of postage you use on your fundraising appeals can give you a leg up and make your direct mail appear more personal.

Using “live stamps” – real postage stamps instead of preprinted indicia – improves your chances of getting your piece opened and read. The good news is you can still take advantage of discount mailing rates by using bulk nonprofit rate live stamps.

Also, if your live stamps aren’t perfectly placed on your envelopes, it’s okay. They will look like a person placed them vs. a robot. This gives your piece yet another human touch.

Using multiple live stamps in different monetary amounts also gives your envelopes an authentic appearance. Last year, I received a piece that used a combination of three cent and two cent stamps on the return envelope.

So let me recap! The more you directly and personally connect to donors on a human level through your nonprofit fundraising direct mail the better the return. I shared three ways you can give your direct mail a human touch which are personalization, handwriting and live stamps.

Best of luck to you on your direct mail campaigns. If you need a hand, contact us. To see more marketing tips for nonprofits, go to