When well planned, your online and offline fundraising programs can complement and enhance each other. There are several ways to integrate online fundraising with your offline marketing programs such as direct mail.
Use email to boost response to direct mail. In the same way that you might make a call telling donors to expect an important letter, you can email your file telling them to watch the mail, or wait for the call. A special, stand-alone email is most effective, but you can also incorporate the message into your regular donor e-newsletter. You can also try following up a special appeal with an email, saying "we hope you read our recent letter, just click here to make your donation online today. It's convenient and saves us money." The first renewal effort might be conducted by email, followed by the usual multi-letter series, and eventually a phone call.
Offer the convenience of online giving. More and more of your donors may prefer to conduct their transactions online. When they receive a direct mail solicitation, they may want to make their gift online rather than writing a check, putting it in an envelope, finding a stamp, and putting it in the mailbox. Include on your reply device a Web address for an online giving page, in addition to the credit card and check options. Ideally, you should create a giving page specifically for that appeal so you can track the response, but at a minimum you can route direct-mail traffic to a unique url to track how many people actually went from the mail to the Web. Make sure the printed url is easy to remember, such as www.yourorganization.org/donation.
Promote your online program through direct mail. Promote your web site and e-newsletter in all of your print communications. Consider sending out a special postcard highlighting features on your site and announcing the launch of your donor e-newsletter. Tell people to visit your web site to subscribe, or include a reply device so people can mail you their email address.
A Word About Database Integration
The process of integrating data from all of the different places where it's collected online and offline is likely to be an ongoing issue. The goal is to ensure that at every point of contact with your donors, you have the most current information.
For example, an existing donor makes a donation online. In that process, she gives you permission to send her your monthly e-newsletter. You then have to add her to your email messaging list and update her gift history and contact information in your offline database. Later, if you don't put her email address in your offline database, you may send her a postcard in the mail saying "send us your email address so we can send you our e-newsletter," when she's already been receiving it for several months. Three months later, perhaps she unsubscribes from your e-newsletter. The next day you add to your email list all donors with email addresses in your offline database. Depending on your messaging system, you may have just resubscribed her against her will. The point is that you'll need to figure out a system for keeping all of your databases integrated by doing regular imports and exports among your systems.