Direct Mail

A Well-calculated Risk
May 1, 2005

For almost 200 years, the American Bible Society has provided Scripture to needy individuals in almost every country in the world. Like many nonprofits in the 1990s, ABS was using elaborate, premium-based acquisitions to attract new donors via mail. Renting several million names each fall, ABS would mail a single acquisition and garner several hundred thousand new donors at a crack.

Unfortunately, the organization spent the rest of the year wondering if those new donors gave because they felt connected to the mission or because they liked the premiums.

May 1, 2005

Sustaining strong results for an 18-year control package is no easy feat, even if you’re an aggressive direct mailer such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which dropped 7 million cold-mail acquisition pieces in its last fiscal year alone.

And while it’s no surprise that PETA’s pack has seen myriad tweaks and tests and format changes over the years, the nexus has been a simple, straightforward questionnaire, with jarring inquiries such as: “Did you realize that the vast majority of painful animal experimentation has no relation at all to human survival or the elimination of disease?”

Is Letter Writing Really About Good Grammar?
April 1, 2005

Grammar is the curse of direct-mail fundraising — and for several reasons.

First of all, those who sign fundraising letters often have the unfortunate conviction that the words they put on paper to describe their mission rank far above the words associated with selling a product.

So their letters tend to follow what they consider the basic rules of grammar, in order to give them a higher state of dignity than one they might write if they were selling women’s underwear.

Soaring on Simplicity
April 1, 2005

For direct mail copywriting and creative team Paul E. Barry and Rosalie G. Barry, the objective set forth by the Air Force Association in 1997 was a simple one: Craft a membership appeal to sell accident insurance to a decidedly military audience.

Insert Success Story Here
April 1, 2005

In the for-profit world, insert media no longer is considered an “alternative” marketing channel. Program managers are seeing significant usage by mailers seeking vehicles to brand and sample their myriad products and services. But for most nonprofits, an insert is still just an alternative, a substitute, a backup.

One of the greatest challenges for charities considering insert media, according to Curt Weigel, account supervisor at Seattle-based direct-marketing agency the Domain Group, is finding enough relevant programs to accommodate a campaign’s fundraising needs.

Broadening the Appeal
April 1, 2005

The Children’s Aid Society, New York City, founded in 1853 to serve needy children and families through a broad network of services, including education, health, counseling, adoption, foster care, arts, recreation and emergency assistance. 

You Want the Appeal Out by When?
March 1, 2005

President John F. Kennedy gave NASA a decade to get to the moon. My kids give Santa a year to come through with presents. But I wonder if the rocket scientists and St. Nick have the same “under-the-gun” feeling that many direct mail fundraisers have when preparing the next big campaign.

Both experienced and newbie fundraisers alike know that successful campaigns require an investment of financial resources and time. We’ve dealt with the financial issues, now let’s deal with time — the one resource of which we all have the same amount to spend.

Direct Mail: Just Bring It
March 1, 2005

It started with chocolate bars. On the day after the first day of school, every year, without fail, kids would hit the streets, going door to door, to sell chocolate bars to raise money for their schools. Even the Catholic kids, whose parents already were paying big tuition, were called to action.

Soon, it was magazines, raffle tickets, wrapping paper, whatever. For a week after school started, you couldn’t answer your door without the teacher’s pet or the class clown or any one of a thousand local school kids hustling you for a sale.

At Long Last, I'm Now the Target Audience
March 1, 2005

This might turn out to be a rant. But you see, I’m getting a lot of fundraising appeals I can’t read because the type is too small, the paragraphs are too long, and the copy is too intensive and technical.

I’m eligible to critique this mail, not because I’ve been in the business for 42 years but because I’m now the target audience.

Fundraising With Heart
March 1, 2005

A one-week-a-year campaign that raises $200,000 over three years? Not bad.

More aggressive is increasing your development goal for that campaign to $100,000 in a single year.