Understanding Direct Mail Blue Books | JulepCRM.com

Understanding Direct Mail Bluebooks

What is a bluebook?

The standard Response Analysis report, often referred to as a “Bluebook”, is used for direct mail return analysis. Through a bluebook, you can compare segments within a package, look at returns, and even compare packages within programs. The information you see in the bluebook depends on what information you provide. The more information you upload to your CRM, the more you can assess your direct mail program.

Reading your Bluebook

For best results, it is recommended to input all the information you have into your database in order to get a full picture of your direct mail program. The earlier you can input things, such as source code and mail date, the faster you will be able to get your gifts caged and in the database. Below is the standard format for a bluebook:

The program is the large umbrella of what a set of packages is trying to achieve. Usually, these are divided between the Housefile Program (your regular donors) and your Prospect Program (potential donors you would like to become regular donors). There are also opportunities to break out your digital housefile and prospect lists. Some organizations will designate a program for a special projects, like a building program.

The package is each mailing you send. Packages are under a program. These mailings could have different variables tested within the mailing, but the overall message is directed at the same topic.

Source Code/Mail Code
The source code or mail code are the segments broken out within a particular package. The segments can be related to the types of donors you have to the amount of money donors have given in the past. You usually have a code that is a series of numbers or letters followed by a description. Check out our blog post on segmenting your mailing list here.

List Group and List #
Tags that group sets of like or selected source codes together allowing results to be subtotaled within the initiative or tracked across initiatives when the same tags are used throughout your program.

Code Description
The source code description gives more information for easier segment viewing.


  • The mail date is the day the mail was sent out.
  • The quantity refers to the number of pieces you mailed out.

Cage Date
Here you can see the date of the first reply versus the date of the most recent reply. Over time, you can use this to understand how quickly your donors reply or the period of time most returns come in.


  • This indicates the number of gifts that were returned for each mail code
  • The percentage of return is calculated comparing the # of gifts returned and quantity mailed.

Total Costs

  • Gross is the amount of money raised before considering the cost of the mailing.
  • Cost indicates how much it costs to produce the mailing. Everything from the stamp, to the price of the copy editor, etc. can be indicated here.
  • Net Return indicates how much money you made from each mail code. It is calculated as the gross income minus the cost of the mailing.

Per Letter Costs
Gross, Cost, Net Return are calculated similarly to above, but broken down per letter mailed.

Average Gift and ROI
Here is where you can see the average gift amount and your return on investment percentage. The return on investment is calculated as the gross income divided by the cost.

Want to learn more on source code management? Schedule a Julep demo today!