If you look up the word innovation in the Merriam Webster online dictionary, its definition is as follows- “the introduction of something new, a new idea, method or device”.  Over the years, innovation has propelled and advanced consumer devices and entire industries.  Imagine a world without cell phones, remote controls, microwaves or even light (thank you Thomas Edison).

Without innovation we as a world, and as a society, would be stuck, uninspired, and quite frankly BORING!  Innovation pushes us to break the boundaries, bend the rules and do better things better.  For example, in the last scene of the 1980 classic time travel film Back to the FutureMarty and Doc have the following exchange…

Marty McFly says “Hey, Doc, we better back up. We don’t have enough road to get up to 88.

Doc Replies “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

In essence, the direct marketing innovations we see today in the Non-Profit industry are much like the movie Back to the Future.  We are introducing something new while still standing firm in our beliefs and strategies that have taken us this far. It is a combination of innovations from the past and future that create compelling and engaging campaigns.  Innovations are being developed with QR codes, the integration of video, augmented reality, hyper personalization, continuous color and tracking to name a few.  In fact my colleague Matt Haskell did a post on the use of video in direct mail and how companies are coming out with some very innovative ideas!

While the Non-Profit marketplace may not be ready for video integrated direct mail campaigns (or maybe it is), three areas of innovation that will help you make a more personalized connection with your donor and potential donors are;

  1. Continuous Variable Color
  2. Selective Inserting
  3. Mail Tracking

On their own, each of these has been used and integrated into campaigns for years in the B2B and B2C marketplace.  However, in the Non-Profit arena, the innovation is just getting started, and if leveraged correctly, you will increase your speed-to-market and your average gift!  But most importantly, you can build a personalized connection with your donors.

Where the innovation comes in is when you bring the three techniques together and change the way you communicate.  Leveraging your data can make the letter you send personalized and relevant with messaging, imagery and targeted creative treatments all in full color.  Then, though selective inserting, include a “freemium” that is specific to your donors profile.  Lastly, through mail tracking, you can stage your multichannel effort (telemarketing or email) to launch based on the mail delivering.  Mail tracking also allows for remittance tracking to monitor who has responded and appropriately include or exclude them in any follow up communications.

If you want to lean more about this and other direct marketing innovations for Non-Profit arena, I encourage you to attend the DMAW’s Innovative Format and Integrated Campaigns event on April 24th in Washington DC.  This event will feature presentations from 13 Direct Marketing innovators who are helping their clients leverage new technologies with tried and true direct marketing strategies and fundamentals to engage audiences and compel them to take action.

If you unable to make the event, drop me a line and I’d be happy to share with you some of the Innovations I shared and saw that day!  You never know, maybe someone built a time machine out of a DeLorean….

Marty McFly:

Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?


The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?