Skip Navigation

Tips for reaching people through their mailbox

By Darby Jones

One might think snail mail reaches only older folks, right? Reaching millennials (people born between 1985 and 2004) requires a different strategy. Right?

On the contrary. Although in today's digital age, it may seem that snail mail is dead, statistics show the opposite. In fact, according to Deliver Magazine:

65% of adult millennials say they prefer to read something on paper. More than 64 percent of people surveyed say they value the (snail) mail they receive.

According to Joyce Carrier, manager of advertising and promotion with the U.S. Postal Service, these numbers indicate that traditional mail still works and should be part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. If done well, direct mail is still a viable way to reach newcomers to the community and welcome visitors.

Direct mail can be particularly important as an integral part of any fundraising or stewardship campaign, going hand in hand with electronic media. According to Mark Brooks, founder and president of The Charis Group, "Direct mail is one of the most underutilized means of producing funds that churches ignore costing them precious dollars every year."

Whether your church uses mail as a part of a stewardship campaign or to reach out to new community members, here are some tips for maximizing your direct mail efforts:

Test new techniques to lift your direct mail response

If your budget allows, consider producing:

Consider the following:

  • Change the envelope color. That may be all it takes to get people to look at something they have discarded previously.
  • Ask a teasing question in the first postcard and answer it in the second.
  • Be provacative. Get people thinking and talking about your church!
  • Touch on the needs of your community, awaken a dream, inspire hope and engender trust and curiosity.
  • Include a small cross keychain, refrigerator magnet or print calendar with appropriate contact information.

Plan copy length for maximum results

Large, full color postcards have become the medium of choice for creating awareness. Most people look at the outside of each piece of mail. With postcards, your message is on the outside, so you can guarantee that even if it gets thrown out, most people will at least give it a look. If the visual quality is superb, they may even read your message.

Communicate at a glance an image and message that connects with a need and stirs a dream of the person receiving the message. A positive message along with a remarkable image can build an incredible platform for every other facet of growth in your church. The back of your postcard may have more in-depth information for seekers who are ready to take the next step.

Long versus short copy

The long versus short copy debate has raged for decades. However, the optimum length is different for each industry and type of communications medium. For direct mail, it may come as a shock, but longer copy outperforms short and sweet. Here is the logic. Few people read direct mail advertisements. However, the real prospects are hungry for information and want more before investing time and tithe. After creating an initial awareness with a large postcard, you might consider sending a brochure, letter or another large postcard to accommodate the seekers' desire to find a good spiritual home.

One good practice, no matter how long or short the copy, is to be concise. Learn how to draw people in with concise copy.

The production quality says a lot about your church.

Here are some good practices:

  • If you are producing a postcard, consider the larger size (8.5 x 5.5, 6 x 9, or 9 x 12). Often, small postcards get lost in the shuffle.
  • Consider cardstock. You don't have to pay a fortune to get an ample weight (80 lb. or above) that will hold up as it makes its way through the postal system.
  • Make sure the headline gets attention. Keep it simple and clever but not hokey!
  • Include one or two clear calls to action.
  • Insert only the contact information that relates to the call to action.
  • Avoid too many fonts and graphics.
  • Avoid United Methodist and Christian jargon that isn't familiar to the unchurched. For instance, you may want to refer to Sunday night youth group or ministry rather than UMYF.
  • Consider timing and frequency. Ministry Matters recommends sending no more than four pieces a year, including Christmas and Easter mailings. More can seem intrusive.

What can I expect?

How do you evaluate the response to your piece? A response rate of 1-3 percent has traditionally been considered acceptable. However, the Direct Marketing Association recently released numbers indicating that the direct mail response rate is more than 4 percent.

Need FREE direct mail resources?

United Methodist Communications' Rethink Church offers you FREE, customizable, professionally produced direct mail postcards. Call Rethink Church toll free at 877-281-6535 or email for more suggestions.

According to Ministry Matters, once the direct mail piece is ready for printing, take another look and ask three questions:

  • Does the message speak to people who do not attend church here or to other outsiders?
  • Does the message tell people what we want them to know about the church?
  • Do the message and design of the piece feel inviting and welcoming?

While your home mailbox may seem old-fashioned, it is still relevant. Direct mail can be an effective way of reaching out to the community around you.

If you are not using a professional mailing house, but want to cut costs and do it yourself, check first with the postal service for directions.

United Methodist Communications: Free Print Advertising Pieces