A Nonprofit’s Direct Mail Journey

We’re living in a time where digital marketing messages constantly flood our inboxes and social media feeds, which makes cutting through the noise to reach your target audience increasingly difficult. For the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit that uses reforestation and urban forestry to solve issues of climate change, community and biodiversity, the solution to this messaging overload has been leveraging the power of direct mail to consistently generate positive — and personal — results.

A Resurging Marketing Channel

Direct mail, often considered a traditional marketing tactic, has experienced a resurgence in recent years. According to RR Donnelley’sDonnelley’s (RRD) Modern Marketers Report, 42% of consumers expressed an increased interest in receiving direct mail compared to the previous year. Among younger age groups, particularly those aged 18-26, there was a notable enthusiasm for direct mail, with 61% expressing agreement. This shift in perception highlights the untapped potential of direct mail for hyper-personalized marketing journeys.

One key strategy that sets the Arbor Day Foundation apart is keeping a priority on direct mail in an era dominated by digital clutter. In a landscape where email inboxes are flooded with promotional messages and social media feeds are laden with ads, direct mail stands out as a tangible, trustworthy channel for communication.

A Legitimate & Personal Channel

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of customers report feeling overwhelmed by digital brand communications, specifically via email. At the same time, nearly half (46%) are more cautious about sharing personal data online. With the overpowering nature of email communications and growing concerns with online data privacy, the opportunity for direct mail to emerge as the go-to trustworthy and personal channel is here.

It’s this perception that has helped to support the marketing needs of the Arbor Day Foundation. We’ve heard directly from the foundation’s members that they appreciate legitimate, physical pieces of information they can keep around and revisit. The Modern Marketers Report confirmed this, showing that 47% of customers also noted a preference for direct mail due to their appreciation for having a tangible copy of information for reference, in addition to finding it easier to remember than email and enjoying the excitement of opening physical mail.

By leveraging direct mail’s hyper-personalization capabilities, the Arbor Day Foundation also ensures that its message reaches donors in a way that resonates with them on a personal and local level. Direct mail recipients can see and hear what is going on in their immediate area as it relates to the foundation’s goals and activities.

Cutting Through The Noise

As RRD and the Arbor Day Foundation continue to collaborate, direct mail holds strong as a marketing channel that cuts through the noise. Recognizing its members are bombarded with messaging all day every day, the Arbor Day Foundation knows the importance of meeting them, as well as potential members, where they want to be met. The nonprofit’s success underscores the importance of this tactic in maximizing marketing program return on investment, especially in today’s unpredictable economic climate.

Digital channels often dominate the marketing conversation, but mediums like direct mail that emanate trustworthiness and personalization remain a force to be reckoned with in the marketing landscape. And for nonprofits like the Arbor Day Foundation, it’s a go-to method for reaching their mission-driven goals.


Tim Pietrini is the VP of Strategic Development at RRD, a provider of marketing, packaging, print and supply chain solutions. Prior to his current appointment, Pietrini served as the company’s Marketing Strategist.

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