Today my soon-to-be-husband received a direct mail piece with the following message on the envelope:“Warning: The penalty for obstructing or interfering with the delivery of this letter is a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 5 years imprisonment.” It also said: “Postmaster: please deliver between 8/10 and 8/12.” Today being the 14th and all, I guess the postmaster is behind. Or maybe this is all a crock. The latter, of course. The contents of this outrageous piece of mail? A pass for a “free” six-night cruise. This is the kind of thing that makes me hate direct mail. I’ve even seen nonprofits do things this tricky. Does it work? is it right? And…. is direct mail ultimately headed for the circular file? As Mark Rovner points out in this must-read post, not really to all of the above. Any nonprofit marketing or fundraising professional would be nuts to retire the postage meter. That said, Mark makes some extremely savvy points about direct mail. Namely:I’m not saying these tactics don’t work. If they didn’t work they wouldn’t be so commonplace. I am saying it’s all a little bit cheesy and dishonest, and we have three generations – boomers, Gen-X an Gen-Y who are progressively less tolerant of cheese and manipulation than their forebearers.He urges direct mailers to think differently about nonprofit marketing and fundraising – and more importantly, their relationships with their audience.Heed his advice:If our direct mail brethren are smart, they’ll get beyond their denial about the world changing, and reinvent the medium to match the expectations and tastes of new generations of donors. If they don’t, then maybe it is time to be drafting the epitaph.