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Nonprofit Direct Mail on Salesforce, Part 7: Marketing Planning

By Dustin Pitts December 6, 2017

Direct Mail
Hello and welcome back to my blog series about direct mail! My name is Dustin. I’m a Solution Engineer for based in Charleston, SC. In today’s post I am going to be focusing on the planning process for direct mail.

I am defining “direct mail planning” as the process where you create a blueprint for your upcoming nonprofit marketing efforts through direct mail. For example, you plan to have twelve acquisition mailings per year that are sent the first day of each month. This process is often done by an organization’s marketing team months before the mailing is sent. Typically, when you prepare for the next year’s mailings, you complete this at the end of the fiscal year.

When the nonprofit marketing planning process is done efficiently, I usually see these elements tracked:

    1. Dates
    2. Projected costs
    3. Projected income

I know that this seems straightforward, but there are actually a lot of complexities buried in each. In an effort to make this easy to understand for your nonprofit management, I’ve broken each topic down below.


Dates are really the starting point in the planning process. Organizations traditionally include the obvious things like mail drop date in their marketing plans. Here is a simple example of how some organizations may currently track direct mail dates using Excel.

Nonprofit marketing plan example

You can see that this type of reporting works, but it is a bit dated and isn’t connected to your live data. This is where you can use Salesforce to provide some quick wins for the marketing team.

Where are dates recorded in Salesforce? Usually on the campaign object. Out of the box in the Nonprofit Success Pack, you have the option to store the start date and end date of a campaign. This can be used to represent the drop date of the mailing (when it was “dropped” at the post office). That alone would provide you with enough information to build a standard calendar in Salesforce. In the screenshots below, you can see the start and end date fields on a campaign. I have also included a screenshot of how you can use Salesforce calendar functionality to build a calendar based off of these dates.

Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack - Dates for Marketing Campaign

Nonprofit Direct Mail Calendar in Salesforce NPSP

Some groups will take this even further by recording other dates, such as creative due dates, copy due dates, segmentation due dates, etc. It really depends on the level of effort your organization wants to put into managing dates in Salesforce. You can record these additional dates as individual fields on the campaign object or as tasks related to the campaign.

In short: this type of calendar reporting is not required. I have several clients who choose to manage all of their calendar dates outside of Salesforce or through a partner. But if you want all of your data to be in one place and easily reportable, I suggest keeping it in Salesforce.

Projected Costs

Project costs represent the estimated expenses that your organization will incur when sending out a mailing. These costs represent things like postage, printing, and marketing services. During the initial planning phase, it is common for marketing managers to set a budget for each mailing they will have. For example, they may say that they have $15,000 to spend on the Annual Holiday Appeal.

This projected cost allows marketers to estimate how many pieces of mail they will be able to send out. Based on past marketing performance they can then predict the amount of revenue the organization will receive in return. Using our holiday example above, let’s say it cost $0.50 total to send each piece of mail. This tells you that you will be sending out 30,000 pieces of mail ($15,000/$0.50 = 30,000). If you have a database of 100,000 potential prospects you will need to narrow that down to the folks who are most likely to donate. Looking at past segment performance, you can focus on the most valuable groups of people in your database (segments) and send mail to only those individuals. This ensures the highest rate of return possible for your marketing spend. Having projected costs really helps with that narrowing down process.

In Salesforce, you can track this in a few ways. The most simplistic way would be to populate the field called “Budgeted Cost in Campaign” directly on the parent campaign. This represents the overall cost for that entire mailing. That works well for simple projects or those where a third party vendor is managing all of the details.

Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack - campaign screenshot example

The more complex way of tracking this would be at the package level. In my blog post about packages, you can see sample packages and identify the cost fields. Those cost fields all roll up to the parent campaign since the package is associated with a campaign. The benefit of doing this approach is that it allows for real time rollup calculations at a granular level. The downside is that it requires manual entry of costs for each package, or requires an import.

As you can see, Salesforce gives you the flexibility to track the costs in a way that works best for your organization. This cost data is similar to the dates section above. By that I mean it isn’t required and the use cases will vary by organization.

Projected Income

Projected income is very similar to projected costs. This represents the expected amount of revenue that will come in from each marketing effort. Just like projected costs, there is a field on the campaign object called “Expected Revenue in Campaign.” This field can be used for tracking the amount of revenue you are predicting for each campaign. This also rolls up to the parent campaigns for overall reporting.

We can easily create a reporting matrix on these numbers to tell the marketing team what the projected costs will be in comparison to the projected income. This layered with the actual income gives marketing a very powerful year over year reporting base.

Summary: Advice on Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations

Here’s what you need to know to put these lessons into practice at your organization:

    1. Dates can be tracked on the campaign object. These can then be placed on the standard Salesforce calendar for visualization.
    2. Projected costs can be stored on the campaign object or a custom package object. This data will roll up into parent campaigns for reporting.
    3. Projected income can be recorded on the campaign object. This combined with projected costs and actual income gives a complete view of marketing performance.

I hope this post was a helpful resource to those of you looking to learn more about marketing planning for nonprofits. Thanks again for following along with my blog series! Please reach out with any questions or comments.