2012 DMFA Acquisition Package of the Year: Covenant House Paint Can Appeal

[Editor’s note: Last month, the Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA) held its annual Package of the Year Awards luncheon to honor the winning packages. Through the end of the year, FundRaising Success will highlight some of the winners here in Today in Fundraising.]

Right from the onset, Convenant House established a goal to acquire true mission donors. To do that, Father Bruce Ritter, founder of the nonprofit dedicated to serving and protecting homeless children, made it a point of emphasis to talk about people, no programs, in all fundraising appeals with the goal to engage prospects through love stories. The idea was to let prospects see, feel and hear the child in need.

“The goal was to connect with the prospect’s emotions, and then sell the cause later,” says Tom Gaffny, principal of Tom Gaffny Consulting, who worked on the package along with Wilson & Associates.

Over the years, Covenant House tested hundreds of stories about the homeless children it has helped. In the early 1980s, the organization decided to collect all of the stories in a book and mail it as a premium in acquisition — a premium that truly connects prospects emotionally to the mission. Then in 1991, a girl came to Covenant House holding a paint can containing her mother’s ashes, a heart-wrenching story that represents everything Covenant House stands for. Thus, the “paint can” acquisition package was born, with the letter relaying the story of this young girl and the book included as a premium.

It became the control acquisition package shortly thereafter, and this year, after being revived in 2011, it was honored as the 2012 DMFA Acquisition Package of the Year.

The outer is just a plain manilla 6-inch-by-9-inch envelope with the Covenant House logo and return address information and a small window. Inside is the book premium, “Sometimes God Has a Kid’s Face,” by Sister Mary Rose McGeady; a lift note; a reply device with a call-out to the book and a copy of the “Prayer of st. Francis of Assisi”; and the four-page paint can letter, which begins:

“She came to our front door on a Tuesday morning, dressed in dirty rags, holding a little aluminum paint can in her arms.

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