2008 Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence: And the Winners Are …
Judging for the Gold Awards was a little more low-key this year, it seems. (We think it might be because the ASPCA’s Steve Froehlich couldn’t make it. But please … don’t tell him we said so.)
Also, there was no hotly contested tie for Package of the Year that had us seeking tiebreaker after tiebreaker like last year.
But the competition was just as fierce. Once again, our judges hunkered down in the conference room at our office here in Philadelphia and pored over 35 entries (vetted down from nearly 80) in seven categories: Direct-Mail Acquisition (50,000 or more mailed, and fewer than 50,000 mailed); Direct-Mail Renewal (50,000 or more mailed, and fewer than 50,000 mailed); Direct-Mail Special Appeal; E-philanthropy (for campaigns centered around e-mail and Web, with no direct-mail components); and Multichannel (for campaigns that combine any number of strategies, including direct mail).
Each judge graded each entry on a scale of 1 to 5 in each of four criteria: results, revenue, copy and creative. Winning submissions were those with the highest number of total points, and Package of the Year was the direct-mail package with the highest overall points. Grand Control of the Year was chosen from North American Publishing Co.’s Who’s Mailing What! Archive by Paul Bobnak, one of our judges and the WMW! director.
We’d like to thank Paul and the rest of the judges — Gold Awards vet Tim O’Leary, vice president of McPherson Associates; Margaret Guellich, director of major gifts and planned giving at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen (New Jersey); and, of course, Abny Santicola, Target Marketing Group managing editor and former senior editor at FundRaising Success — for their help.
One disappointment this year, however: We originally had announced a new category — Fearless Fundraising — for innovative campaigns that employ elements of mobile, guerilla, social-networking or other cutting-edge strategies. We got only one submission for that one, which was ineligible because it was more or less a business initiative rather than fundraising. So, you tell us, are we off in thinking that Fearless Fundraising was something to be reckoned with in 2007? Should we include it again in next year’s competition? Let us know! As always, we’d love to hear from you!
— Margaret Battistelli, Editor-in-Chief
Package of the Year and Winner, Special Appeal
Number of Recipients: 3,999
Total Income Generated: $664,415
Average Gift: $2,711.90
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $30,967.42
Response Rate: 6.12 percent
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.046
Top-notch and simple is the best way to describe our overall winning package.
Habitat for Humanity International’s Special Development Appeal includes a nearly two-page typed letter from Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford, detailing how major donors can help Habitat reach its goal of eliminating substandard housing around the world.
In a handwritten note after his signature, Reckford says, “Right now, Habitat for Humanity is in the race against time that we call the Habitat Challenge. It’s one of our busiest building seasons and these next few weeks are especially critical. I believe these weeks alone could determine whether or not we can
ultimately help every family we’ve pledged to serve … or whether they might have to wait until next year for the helping hand they so urgently need.”
Along with the letter is a six-page work plan that consists of the latest census information on
poverty and homelessness along with supporting charts, graphs, diagrams, photos and a story from a Michigan family who was living in a mold-plagued apartment until Habitat stepped in to help.
“It was like a gift from God when we were told Habitat had approved our applications for a house,” Jamie, of Bay City, Mich., says in the appeal. “It is a blessing to have this opportunity to be a partner family with Habitat — a wonderful organization.”
The package was a raging success, raising more than $530,000 from fewer than 250 donors, according to the entry form.
From Margaret Guellich: “This package contains great elements — passion, urgency, storytelling. The letter is short and to the point. Backup [and] the case for support is laid out extremely well. You couldn’t say no. I’d mail this package to my major donors!”
— Melissa Busch
Renewal (50,000 or more mailed)
Number of Recipients: 370,069
Total Income Generated: $1,804,299
Average Gift: $85.40
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $124,862
Response Rate: 5.71 percent
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.069
Never underestimate the value of a simple thank-you. CARE USA doesn’t in this package.
Its “A Million Thanks from a Million Places” World Report package tugs at donors’ heartstrings with a beautiful, four-page newsletter featuring short vignettes from people around the world telling how the organization — supported by important donor contributions — helped them secure an education, receive better health care and start small businesses.
CARE President and CEO Helene D. Gayle also expresses her gratitude in a thank-you note within the newsletter.
According to the entry form, the newsletter had “a response rate of nearly 13 percent and an ROI of $41.50 for our highest-value donors.”
From Paul Bobnak: “[Gayle’s] letter is … quite effective in that it points out that [donations will be doubled]; the newsletter strongly reinforces the impulse to renew. Gift amounts are reasonable considering their impact; good personal stories in the newsletter.”
— Melissa Busch
Renewal (fewer than 50,000 mailed)
Number of Recipients: 22,834
Total Income Generated: $210,704
Average Gift: $76.48
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $14,020
Response Rate: 12.07 percent
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.07
Rhode Island might be small in size, but the Rhode Island Community Food Bank showed big in this competition. And it’s no wonder.
Its work is impressive, and it had to make sure donors knew it. Summer and spring issues of its newsletter were well received each year, but the fall issues often, well, fell short.
In 2006, the organization took advantage of its 25th anniversary and developed a brochure that showcased a time line of its milestones. RICFB built on the idea in 2007 by mailing an annual review update that outlined the past year’s achievements.
The brochure includes photos of volunteers working in kitchens and pantries, and constituents happily enjoying their meals along with short paragraphs about what donors helped RICFB accomplish.
From Abny Santicola: “The pamphlet that details how donors’ gifts helped those in the community [is] a great way to focus the spotlight on donors and programming at the same time and make donors feel good about giving again.”
— Melissa Busch
Acquisition (50,000 or more mailed)
Number of Recipients: 150,000
Total Income Generated: $107,691
Average Gift: $35.11
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $64,390.78
Response Rate: 2.04 percent
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.60
The Utah Food Bank knows that donors are most generous when it comes to feeding the hungry around Thanksgiving. It also knows that sometimes the simpler the message, the better.
The organization’s 2007 Thanksgiving Donor Acquisition package — a no-frills, kraft-colored mini gift card with a personal note — aims to connect with donors and make it clear that many of the people who are struggling to feed themselves live right in their own communities. An excerpt from the note reads, “The hungry are young, innocent children who go to bed with empty stomachs because their parents, even though they’re working, can’t afford to put food on the table.”
From Tim O’Leary: “The clean layout of the outer envelope is so intriguing that you have to open it. … This is an easy, warm and inviting direct-mail package that doesn’t need frills or premiums to elevate response.”
— Melissa Busch
Acquisition (fewer than 50,000 mailed)
Number of Recipients: 39,999
Total Income Generated: $38,551
Average Gift: $58.23
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $19,934 (after fulfillment)
Response Rate: 1.66 percent
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.517 (after fulfillment)
It’s not often that a direct-mail piece tells its whole story before the recipient even opens the envelope. This winning package’s outer is chock-full.
On the front of the envelope is a photo of African-American soldiers around a military plane, and emblazoned over the photo are the words “We fought prejudice at home and the Nazis in the sky … Please show your appreciation for the WWII Tuskegee Airmen and receive a special souvenir.”
The back of the envelope explains who the Tuskegee Airmen were, their mission and their challenges. Inside the envelope is a four-page letter from Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee, Col. USAF, Ret.
At the end of the letter is this PS: “Through faith and determination we overcame enormous obstacles. This is a lesson that all young people need to hear. Please join me in ensuring the story of the Tuskegee Airmen will continue to inspire them.”
From Margaret Guellich: “A cause well-presented — passionate, respectful, urgent stories. Good, strong case for support.”
— Melissa Busch
Number of Recipients: 648,812
Total Income Generated: $94,162
Average Gift: $132.06
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $20,042.32
Response Rate: 0.11 percent
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.21
With compelling copy, heartfelt stories and a positive message rounding out the ask, Covenant House really covered all bases with this campaign.
The 2007 Covenant House Holiday Campaign was a fully integrated, online-marketing effort that included the following e-mail, Web site banner and search-engine marketing elements:
* Two fundraising e-appeals — one Christmas-themed with a focus on human interest, and the other New Year’s-themed with an emphasis on the benefits of giving before the end of the year.
* Daily reflection e-mails, which brought inspirational quotes to recipients’ inboxes.
* One e-newsletter — a mix of stories and reminders about the benefits of giving.
* Rotating fundraising banners on the Covenant House Web site throughout the campaign.
* Holiday-themed e-cards that donors could customize and send to friends or family members.
From Tim O’Leary: “This is how you run an integrated, online campaign. The creative was eye-catching and clean, [and] crisp images draw the recipient further into the body of the e-mails.”
— Melissa Busch
Number of Recipients: 704,379
Total Income Generated: More than $128,000
Average Gift: More than $104
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $4,000
Response Rate: More than 46 percent conversion rate
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.03
It can be heartbreaking when children can’t enjoy Christmas because their parents are incarcerated and there’s no money to spare for gifts or decorations. To engage its donors, Prison Fellowship explained, simply, in a handful of e-mails sent between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that donors can help these children by donating to its Angel Tree project.
The campaign also included photos of children holding “Dear Santa” letters and wrapped gifts, as well as stories about prisoners’ families who have benefited from Angel Tree.
As Christmas approached, the organization ticked down the days at the top of the e-mails. The last one sent out said, “Only 7 Days Left to Bless the Children of Prisoners.”
This was a breakthrough campaign. Total revenue raised was 51 percent higher than what was collected in fiscal year 2007, according to the entry form.
From Abny Santicola: “Excellent, creative copy throughout all of the e-mails that mixes compelling visuals, photos, teasers and personal stories to engage recipients.”
— Melissa Busch
Grand Control of the Year
When you see a mailing over and over, it clearly is a success and, therefore, worth studying.
To date, the Who’s Mailing What! Archive has designated almost 250 fundraising efforts as “Grand Controls” — mailings that have been going for three years or more. This acquisition mailing by Oxfam America, in the mail since 2003, stands apart from the pack because of its plain, straightforward approach. Mailed in two versions — a No. 10 envelope with the Oxfam logo and one without it — the mailing includes a three-page letter, a reply form and a BRE. The only significant use of color is on the six-panel, folded brochure.
The letter starts off with an appeal to reason: Dear Friend, Here’s what you won’t find accompanying this letter: address labels that “guilt trip” you into giving; an expensive calendar that you don’t need (and we can’t afford); invitations to black-tie dinners; or heart-rending photos that play on our emotions.
The letter goes on to explain how Oxfam’s approach to eradicating poverty focuses on “basic” solutions. It provides concrete and practical examples that bolster its argument — for example, “$100 can help poor women in Mali create savings and lending groups that would enable them to … buy lifesaving materials like mosquito nets.”
For potential donors, this nonemotional, freemium-free approach is refreshing and earns this package Grand Control of the Year.
— Paul Bobnak
Number of Recipients: 14,089 e-mail; 1,184 mail
Total Income Generated: $389,006
Average Gift: $499.37
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $31,523.97
Response Rate: 1.18 percent mail; 4.35 percent e-mail
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.08
The Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy 2007 Year-End Appeal is the perfect marriage of direct mail and e-mail.
The organization created a five-part e-mail message series with a matching-gift campaign to complement its direct-mail campaign. The first e-mail, sent prior to the mailing and just before Thanksgiving, was a thank-you from PPMD’s executive director, encouraging people to share a list of what they were thankful for on the organization’s online message board.
The follow-up direct mail played off the idea of a Christmas list, but this time it was a “holiday list” for a boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and included things like “Climb Higher” and “Live Longer” with the message, “Some holiday lists are more essential than others.”
The goal was to deliver a 50 percent increase in gross dollars raised, according to the entry form, and the actual increase was 133 percent.
From Tim O’Leary: “This campaign is proof that you can raise money in the mail and you can raise money online — but when you combine those efforts, you can raise a lot more. A harmonious blend of mail and e-mail!”
Number of Recipients: 17,360
Total Income Generated: $858,018
Average Gift: $1,308
Total Out-of-Pocket Costs: $53,393
Response Rate: 3.78 percent
Cost to Raise a Dollar: $0.06
When it came to Concordia University, Nebraska’s “On a Mission” campaign, seeing was believing. The campaign aimed to raise $60 million to increase the university’s endowment and annual operations fund, and for a capital project, which included the construction of a Health, Human Performance and Athletic Center.
DVDs showing the college’s current gym facilities were sent to donors to compel them to donate to the capital campaign, and it was prefaced by an e-mail to help pique recipient interest.
A follow-up mailing and recorded voice-message broadcast reminded donors of the campaign and reinforced the ask.
“The multichannel, multitouch approach achieved all the goals set and brought in a record amount of revenue, over $858,000,” according to the entry form. “This is a 72 percent increase over the goal, and approximately a 186 percent increase over the previous highest grossing appeal.”
From Tim O’Leary: “Excellent use of multichannel fundraising clearly led to success here over traditional mail/phone efforts. They made a compelling case for upgrading previous gifts.”
— Melissa Busch
Related story: FS Gold Awards: Complete List of Winners