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Direct Mail
December 16, 2022

Webinar Recap: How to Automate Your Nonprofit’s Donor Acknowledgement Letters

Stephanie Donelson

We recently held a webinar on How to Automate Your Nonprofit’s Donor Acknowledgement Letters and were lucky enough to have fantastic guest speakers join us. We welcomed Josie Beets, Senior Vice President of Advancement at United Through Reading, and Benedek Blackthorn, Co-Founder and CEO at Veezla to talk about automating direct mail in the nonprofit space. Our host was none other than Lob’s Head of Social Impact and Sustainability, Christina Louie Dyer. 

Through Lob for Good, we work closely with nonprofit organizations to help them automate and save on direct mail. We’re a proud Pledge 1% member and we donate and discount our product for nonprofits. Direct mail for nonprofits is a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts so we were quite excited to host this webinar. 

2 key takeaways from automating your nonprofit’s donor acknowledgement letters 

This webinar was an excellent real-life look at how United Through Reading has automated a part of its direct mail operations thanks to Lob and Veezla, who powers Lob for Salesforce, plus saving the time of half to a full Full Time Employee that can now do more meaningful work. Nonprofit organizations rely on mail for donor communications but many still use manual processes for managing their efforts . 

Until United Through Reading enabled the Salesforce integration, they were using manual processes that were time-consuming and took staff away from mission-critical work. Let’s see how intelligent mail through Lob has been a game-changer for the nonprofit.

Key takeaway #1: Manually managing direct mail was an inefficient use of staff’s time and skillset

Beets talked about her manual process of managing donor acknowledgement letters, including downloading and exporting donations in an Excel document, doing a mail merge, having the CEO sign the letter, then mailing from San Diego and with a large audience on the East Coast, it could take a few weeks for the donor to get their letter. Beets needed faster delivery times and only had a few people managing the process. If one of them was out or on leave, the entire process went down. Beets needed something that would give them redundancy without having to add headcount.

“I just really can’t overestimate how much time we are spending. It’s at least half a full time employee. I had 3 staff members working on acknowledgement letters: one generating them, one checking them, one sending them. And when I look back on that and the fact that it is off their plate so they can do other projects for me now, it’s just really incredible, if not more than half an FTE, maybe even closer to three-quarters or a full FTE position,” Beets explained.

She added, “It was an inefficient use of my staff’s time. I’m very lucky that we have an incredible development staff that has a lot of knowledge about stewardship and developing donors. But they were spending their time printing letters and doing quality assurance on mail merges. It wasn’t allowing us the time to do intentional stewardship.”

I need them to do more valuable work.

She needed to lift that administrative burden off of her staff. By automating the process, Beets was able to free up her staff’s time to focus on prospecting and the letters weren’t contingent on a single person getting them into the mail. 

Key takeaway #2: Automation is key

With Lob for Salesforce, United Through Reading streamlined the process for donor acknowledgement letters with the ability to customize the letters as they needed to for different campaigns.

The letters were taking care of themselves so the United Through Reading staff could zero in on intentional stewardship, high-value relationships, and expand its outreach to military families. 

“Our communications are more responsive. Now immediately when a donation comes in, that acknowledgement letter gets triggered. We don’t have to worry about a lag time because of where the donation came in in our cycle with exporting out of Salesforce and importing into that mail merge,” Beets said.

With Lob for Salesforce it forced us to be more intentional about our communications and to streamline it.

Beets even shared her screen and walked through an example of the Lob for Salesforce integration and showed how quickly the letter was generated for her example donation, and how it was customized with the right information for the recipient and to remain compliant with the IRS.

“Those customizations were important to us,” said Beets.

Blackthorn explained Lob for Salesforce for the technical folks by saying, “Lob’s product is an HTML-based rendering engine. It allows content to be dynamically rendered based on conditional logic blocks and dynamic data.” 

Though Blackthorn noted that there are some exceptions to automating letters that might want a more personal touch, such as high-value donations. They set up United Through Reading’s account so the staff can set up parameters to re-route high-value donor acknowledgements for a human touch, but still streamlining efficiency. 

This is done completely point and click. Literally four clicks to get a letter out. Doesn’t matter if it’s one or a million recipients.

Tax receipts is the next step of automating direct mail for United Through Reading with the help of Veezla and Lob for Salesforce, which both Beets and Blackthorn are excited to tackle and set up. 

Watch the full webinar recording here: How to Automate Your Nonprofit's Donor Acknowledgement Letters.

Thank you to our guests for joining us to talk about the power of automating direct mail for nonprofit organizations! 

Learn more about United Through Reading here.

Does your organization use Salesforce? See how easy it is to connect Salesforce to Lob to add direct mail to your workflows.