Deliver Magazine. Mail Marketing Strategies from the U.S. Postal Service®

Mail Helps Nonprofit Group Feed the Hungry


A pervasive myth is that hunger primarily affects the homeless. But experts say the condition crosses all but a few demographic boundaries. In fact, Feeding America, the largest organization that specializes in domestic hunger relief, reports that 89 percent of its constituents have private addresses.

Identifying and reaching the families and individuals who depend on their national network for food banks and pantries has been Feeding America’s focus since the Chicago-based program was first established as Second Harvest in 1976. And the group’s mail-centered marketing program is key.

“Over the last five years, Feeding America has raised more than $65 million through the mail,” says Suzanne Joiner, head of direct response for the nonprofit. “This represents over 70 percent of our total direct response revenue. Additionally, mail is currently the primary driver for our new donor acquisition, bringing in over 80,000 new donors every year.

“The key to utilizing any medium, including mail, is to diversify and cross-promote, meaning that every mail piece pushes to the web or phone or some other option for donation and asking questions.”

Multimedia approach works

Feeding America’s multimedia strategies include partnering with heavy hitters in the entertainment industry to help the charity expand its audience: Fox TV’s top-rated reality competition, “American Idol,” has supported the nonprofit, encouraging online pledges during live broadcasts.

Adds Joiner: “Every digital piece, at some point, has an alternative option for making a donation or asking a question about interest in other forms of support: mail, phone, in-person event, etc. It is not necessarily the cutting back of one in favor of the other, but making sure the supporter has options to interact with you, however they choose, at that point in time. And with a significant volume of mail sent every year, it is a key driver to making sure donors are aware of their options to communicate with Feeding America.”

In addition to the 20 million mailers that are distributed annually by Feeding America, 170,000 mailers support the initiatives of Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. Serving 40 Michigan counties, the Grand Rapids base sends 28,000 pieces six times a year to its mailing list, says donor relations manager Linda Vanderbaan.

The program added a freelance writer and graphic artist to create more memorable promotions and successful campaigns, says Vanderbaan. “We’re kind of setting the bar high in getting the message out in a very creative way and a very powerful way that elicits a good response.”

Creativity, Integrated Marketing, Medium Business, Nonprofit Marketing, Small Business, Targeting