Why You Need to Hit Your Donor’s Mailbox First Thing in 2019

Is mailing in December a nonprofit do or don’t?

Traditionally, sending direct mail in December has been viewed as less-than-ideal in the nonprofit industry.

The logic behind this was simple. Donors most likely just donated their year-end gifts—not to mention the added financial strain of the holidays. The assumption: No one wants to think about giving in January.

But is there any truth to this today?

Recently I had the opportunity to co-present at a regional planned giving conference with a colleague of mine. She has over 25-years of experience in fundraising, the last 10+ of which have been with a large public university. During our preparation, she shared with me that, over the past 10 years, the planned giving surveys that her team has mailed in January have consistently had the highest response rates and have identified the most qualified leads vs. any other time of year.

This got me thinking: Is there more than just ‘anecdotal’ evidence to this trend? Are others seeing this to?

In fact, recent data proves that avoiding January mailings could be a thing of the past; January giving conversations may indeed be trending. Could charities be missing big opportunities by avoiding sending direct mail in January?

Here are some data points that show a new trend of thinking about future giving in January may be emerging.


An analysis of Google search trends from October 2017 through late September 2018 indicates that interest in financial and charitable planning topics actually peak in January.

  • “Financial planning” peaked the week of Jan. 21.
  • “Planned giving” rose sharply in January to the second-highest point of the year.
  • “Estate plan” increased dramatically to its annual peak Dec. 17-23, 2017.
  • “Bequest” peaked the week of Jan. 28.
  • “Charitable trust, life estate” peaked the week of Jan 21, 2018.
  • “Tax return” spiked 87 percent the week of Jan. 28 to its annual high.

According to USPS data, 44% of total mail volume in 2017 was delivered in Q4. By comparison, mailboxes during Q1 and Q2 felt empty, when volumes were 12% and 11% of the total respectively.

  • To ensure you are top of mind, aim to be among the first nonprofits to arrive in your donor’s mailbox in mid-late January.

TIP: Keep in mind that nonprofit mail can take up to two weeks to be received. This means entering the mail stream towards the end of December.


January reveals itself as an ideal month to deliver planned giving messages. Consumers are primed, and inboxes are comparatively bare.

Don’t discriminate inboxes either. Whether your mail is digital or print—or both, optimally—be one of the first brands your donors connect with next year.

Will you be the first nonprofit to reach your donors in 2019? We’d love to hear the messaging you’ll be sharing to bring in the New Year.

3 thoughts on “Why You Need to Hit Your Donor’s Mailbox First Thing in 2019

    1. Mike

      Thanks for the question. I don’t think the DMA has released any specific stats around that, but anecdotally we’ve seen (and even some of my friends that do their planned giving marketing in-house have seen) higher response and engagement with surveys and targeted mailings in the 2nd to 3rd week of January timeframe than other times of the winter.

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