American Cancer Society Rethinks Legacy Direct Mail Acquisition, Conversion Efforts
In February, I walked through the busy hallways of the American Cancer Society‘s National Home Office in Atlanta, Georgia, in anticipation of my meeting with the organization’s executives — the lead for direct mail, the head of corporate communications, the CFO and the COO.
I went into this meeting expecting to hear what was behind their brand-new decision to halt direct mail acquisition and direct mail conversion. But I walked out of it with a completely new understanding of this organization. Yes, I left with a better understanding of the direct mail decision, which in itself is not as black and white as “doing it” or “not doing it.” But, perhaps more critical was my understanding of how this organization is working to transform from the inside out and how direct mail is just one part of that transformation.
This article is based on interviews with various executives at the American Cancer Society as well as agencies within the industry. It will cover all the details of the Society’s recent decision around specific direct mail programs — why it’s doing it, how it’s doing it and what the organization expects to happen over the next several years.
Because of the uniqueness of this decision in the industry, the Society has agreed to also share results over the next 18 months as it realizes outcomes, learns new things and even thinks through new approaches. A multipart series will follow this initial installment.
Let’s start with the details of what many in the industry have heard about and, rightfully so, have been confused about. At the end of 2012, the American Cancer Society executive management made a decision to do the following:
- Stop all direct mail acquisition to generate new direct mail donors for the organization.
- Stop all direct mail conversion to offer non-direct mail Society donors (online donors, event-participants/donors, information seekers, etc.) an opportunity to give a direct mail gift.
- Remove the American Cancer Society direct mail donors from all exchange universes.
To put this in perspective, in 2011 the Society mailed 41 million direct mail pieces to cold prospects and non-mail donors to the Society. This decision will also affect its strategy to mail about 300,000 lapsed donors each year that were placed in the acquisition program.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.