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Postcards; Marketing's Small but
Mighty Miniature Billboards

an interview with Kathy Massey,
Associate Editor of Nonprofit Communications

"A postcard is in essence a billboard - the recipient will decide in 2-3 seconds if the message is something worth investigating further" - Heidi Richards

This article is for our monthly newsletter, “Nonprofit Communications Report,” which goes to persons whose job it is to get the word out about their nonprofit agency. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed on how to use postcards for effective marketing." Kathy Massey

Q. Why would a nonprofit want to use a postcard for marketing rather than other types of direct mail?
A. Postcard marketing is inexpensive compared to other forms of direct mail. They give the recipient instant access to what the non-profit is looking for whether it be for a donation, volunteerism or to invite the recipient to an event. These are especially good to announce upcoming fundraisers as a teaser or “save the date.” They can be entertaining and informative. You can be creative with a postcard without breaking the bank.

Q. What are some specific benefits and purposes?
A. Some of the other benefits are that it’s an inexpensive way to update your database. They come back and you can either remove the name or get correct information for the recipient. They take less time to put together than a mailer or letter. No stuffing, no licking, no assembly required. And it’s a great way to run a test to see what type of response you might receive before running a full campaign. And you can stay in the minds of your intended audience Postcards are also a great way to thank donors and volunteers, recognize birthdays and anniversaries, as a short survey, as a reminder. You can also use a postcard with another mailing as a postage paid return mail survey to get inside the donor’s mind.

Q. With so much “junk mail” today, how can a postcard stand out?
A. Most people are curious and a postcard can be read without opening. If the recipient has a relationship with the sender, they are more likely to respond or at least save the postcard to respond later. It makes the decision to keep easier – so much junk mail gets tossed without being open these days. Send the postcard so it arrives mid-week. Tuesdays and Wednesday seems to be the best day to receive mailings – if it arrives on the weekend, people tend to put aside to look at later or toss out. Use a testimonial from a happy donor or volunteer to further strengthen your message.

Q. How important is your design?
A. Design is very important because you want to capture the reader’s attention, however, it is not necessary to spend a ton of money in the design. Remember simple is better. A four color eye-catching graphic with just the right message will get the attention if it matches your nonprofit brand. I have seen postcards with funny little animals or pictures on them that had absolutely nothing to do with the nonprofit.

Q. What are some important tips for designing and using an effective postcard?
A. Focus on the message – make it about the recipient, instead of the sender. Use larger print. Our donors eyes are “aging” and small print won’t get read, it will get tossed. The goal is to get the recipient to respond or at the very least to put it on their refrigerator to respond to later. A postcard is in essence a billboard – the recipient will decide in 2-3 seconds if the message is something worth investigating further, make it meaningful and memorable.

Q. What are some examples of what NOT TO DO when using postcards for marketing?
A. Don’t use media mail – use first class postage – believe it or not, people look at that and first class postage looks more personal to the recipient. If it looks like a mass mailing it will be discarded. Don’t try to tell everything in the message – be brief and to the point. Tell the recipient where then can go to get more information (direct them to a website, etc.). Don’t forget to include contact information. Don’t forget to proofread. I sent a postcard mailing and forgot a digit on my address, it was a coupon postcard and I am quite sure some people went to the wrong address to redeem. This is a great way to loose credibility with the audience you are trying to impress.

Q. Other thoughts on postcards for promoting the cause of nonprofits?
A. I think postcards are one of the best direct mail marketing programs left. People keep postcards for days, weeks, months and sometimes years. People like postcards because its like getting a card from a friend from a far-away place. I like them because I don’t have a lot of time to read a two-page sales letter even when I know the sender, on the other hand I appreciate receiving information from the sender when it is direct and to the point.

"The World’s Smallest Newsletter"

Q. What’s a postcard newsletter?
A. A postcard newsletter is a condensed version of your organization’s “news.” It’s the ‘Readers Digest’ version of a traditional 4-8 page newsletter.

Q.. When and why should a nonprofit use a postcard newsletter?
A. You can send your message in a quick and inexpensive way, you can send it frequently and people will start looking for the information when it arrives at regular intervals.

Q. What are a few “must-do’s” and “must not do’s” regarding postcard newsletters?
A. Don’t try to put 10 tips on a postcard when 3 will do. 3 ideas with high impact will far outweigh 10 tips. People remember 3 or even 5. State the “offer” in the headline. Have a subhead – Make the newsletter look like a newsletter with columns and headings and short, snappy sentences or bullet points. Tips, facts, and quotations work well with postcard newsletters.

Q. Are e-mail postcards equally effective as actual paper postcards?
A. Not in my opinion, they may be easier to produce, they are also easier to delete and I just don’t think they are that personal. And besides, you don’t need a computer to read them.

Q. Should they be used in tandem? Why or why not?
A. I would not use them in place of your current postcard campaign, rather in conjunction with.

Note: this interview appeared in the June 2006 issue of Nonprofit Communications Report Newsletter - a monthly communication for nonprofits.

copyright © 2006 - Heidi Richards and is used with permission.


About the Author:

Heidi Richards is the author of The PMS Principles, Powerful Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business and 7 other books. She is also the Founder & CEO of the Women’s ECommerce Association, International (pronounced wee-k?) – an Internet organization that “Helps Women Do Business on the WEB.” Basic Membership is FREE. Ms. Richards can be reached at or

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