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Delight Your Donors with Handcrafted Direct Mail

When visiting my local McDonald’s I noticed their Café drink menu and decided to order an espresso drink. Americano was my choice and upon placing my order I was met with a confused look from behind the counter. The cashier wasn’t sure they could make that, so I pointed it out on the menu board behind her. She disappeared briefly and returned with my drink. She was happy to have learned how to make the beverage, telling me that it only took two presses of a button on the automated espresso machine. I paid my bill and was on my way.

There is a local coffee shop I enjoy visiting when I have more time to spare. The cheerful barista knows my name and my drink order. She operates the espresso machine skillfully, enjoying the friendly banter of the shop as she works. There are human touches throughout the visit, right down to the beautiful design poured into the foam on top of the drink. I can even have the drink served in a real ceramic mug, if I wish. There are comfortable chairs and a friendly atmosphere to enjoy as I sip my drink. It is a welcome break and always an enjoyable experience.

I place a higher value on my experience in the local coffee shop not only because the end product is high quality, but also because I enjoy seeing the human touches that made that quality possible. The drink from the McDonald’s Café was not terrible. It served its purpose as a midday caffeine boost. But it was produced and delivered in a way that didn’t make any personal connection.

It is possible to create mail that is recognizable as handcrafted based simply on appearance. As you sort your mail, what pieces create joy or at least curiosity? Why is a Birthday card from a loved one put aside to be given special attention and care? It is because you are making immediate judgments about each piece based on its appearance. It may be handwritten, have a commemorative stamp affixed, or show evidence of a paperclip or other item inside. That personal touch communicates that the contents are valuable enough to warrant this extra care and preparation.

Perhaps you are looking for ways to delight your donors with unique handcrafted mail, but are unsure of who can help you with its production. Specialty mailshops help fill a void in the direct mail industry when packages cannot be easily machine inserted or special hand work is needed to produce a mailing. Handwritten mail — or its automated counterpart RealPen/autopen — is almost always going to involve hand inserting. Finding a specialty mailshop with these capabilities can open up all kinds of creative avenues for connecting in personal ways that make sure your mail gets noticed. Getting noticed is better than being ignored, but keep in mind that handcrafted direct mail is not a silver bullet to solve all your fundraising problems. Good data, good copy, good design and a good offer are still critical to having a successful mailing. Adding a handcrafted element to bad fundraising is still going to get bad results

Get to know specialty mailshops that will become trusted strategic partners for the benefit of your organization. Visit their facilities when possible. This can be done safely even in a pandemic, and it will allow you to learn their strengths and capabilities firsthand.

I will be participating in a DMAW Production Week webinar on Thursday, April 22 at 1:00 PM. We will be discussing Mailshop Processing and covering some of these issues in more detail. I hope you will be able to join us!

Paul Clark is head of Client Services at RST Marketing in Forest, Virginia. He can be reached at 434-525-1028 or