2014 DMAW MAXI Awards Results
Attending the 35th annual Direct Marketing Association of Washington MAXI Awards in July, I had a greater appreciation of the MAXI effort invested by the participants, judges and program planners. Given the formidable winning campaign benchmarks, I assume the judging was particularly challenging this year.
Reviewing the winners across all channels, the shared themes were engagement, extraordinary storytelling and relationship building. The stats and snapshot images of the winning Direct Mail, Digital Media, Multichannel and Telemarketing campaigns provided high-level intel of the strategies and tactics.
Generally there was a noticeable focus on reporting net outcomes — especially in the Direct Mail category. Digital Media and Multichannel campaign winners impressed with their year-over-year results. The Telemarketing success in recruitment, conversion and dollars fulfilled for special appeals, monthly giving and major gifts was extraordinary. Interestingly, there were no 2014 winners in the Workhorse campaign category. This may be a good indication of bigger things to come in 2015 and beyond.
The year-end acquisition success stories were simply fantastic. For The Wilderness Society and ABD Direct, the Web light box design change and streamlined donation process increased the number of year-end donors from the previous year by 92 percent and the overall response rate by 35 percent. Natural Resources Defense Council, in partnership with OMP, used search engine technology to conduct hundreds of tests leading up to its “Green Gifts” holiday-giving campaign. Optimizing the right images and messaging for the right audience resulted in the most successful NRDC online year-end campaign ever with 850,000 visits and $300,000 in revenue.
Eidolon Communications tested straightforward language in the first renewal email notice for the Consumer Reports Foundation. The test leveraged the results of previous test learnings and delivered open rates of 33 percent for a first renewal email notice and an increased response rate of 62 percent. Special Olympics and RedEngine Digital earned a Gold MAXI — using every available online option to help “Transform Lives” — with an impressive 733 percent return on investment and $200,000+ in revenue. A two-email, year-end appeal from Guide Dogs for the Blind and Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey performed boldly with nearly 70 percent more revenue than the previous year and the highest-grossing year-end email of all time for the charity. In all, 10 Digital Media campaigns were recognized for excellence.
Longwood Gardens and Daniller + Co. used color and a previously successful 6-inch-by-9-inch format to lift acquisition results, targeting lapsed, prospect and new lists to broaden its reach. The change delivered a winning 1.36 percent response rate, $250,000 net and $61 profit per member acquired. The National Museum of the American Indian and Avalon Consulting received recognition for the organization’s new control — a 6-inch-by-9-inch survey and bookmark acquisition format. “Dispelling Stereotypes” drove a 40 percent higher response rate than the previous acquisition with notecards and a 61 percent decrease in investment per donor. This campaign also won a 2014 Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association Package of the Year Award.
Marine Toys for Tots and CDR Fundraising Group drove Gold MAXI results for an acquisition test that included a personalized, First Class stamp paper-clipped to the reply device and the story of a family who couldn’t afford gifts for its children at Christmas. The self-made stamp test increased response by 423 percent over the control.
Paws for Purple Hearts, in partnership with Fund Raising Strategies, created a convincing acquisition with a “hand addressed” outer envelope and six-page note from a veteran, telling his story of training service dogs to become companions for veterans with PTSD. It was a big win for this small charity with a 3 percent response rate and net profit of $33,000.
The Civil War Trust took home five MAXIs for major-donor and special-appeal campaigns. A 9-inch-by-12-inch envelope delivered a major-donor message including a Certificate of Acceptance, Civil War Commemorative First Class stamped reply envelope and a lift note from board member and country singer Trace Adkins. The organization achieved its goal of pushing the number of $1,000+ donors over the 1,000 mark, netting $36,000 and average gift of $1,200. The Civil War Trust continued on its winning spree with a special appeal, this time to preserve a hallowed battlefield. A combination of full-color maps, a birthday card bounce back for a Civil War tour guide’s 90th birthday, and a DVD mapping the Vicksburg Civil War Campaign and Battle netted more than $200,000 and a phenomenal response rate of 20.85 percent.
An urgent appeal from Medicine Sans Frontiéres/Doctors Without Borders in response to Typhoon Haiyan triggered an 8.8 percent response rate and average gift of $102. The three-piece format — letter/reply, red double window outer envelope and return envelope — was in the mail within five days — a simple format and a winning strategy for OMP Direct.
Eidolon elevated the overall performance of a standard International Rescue Committee newsletter appeal, nearly doubling the response rate, raising 50 percent more revenue than the prior year’s newsletter, and driving the average gift to $54. The “Emergency Update Newsletter Appeal” included a 16-page Special Emergency Response report with stories from the field of IRC in action and the ongoing crisis in Syria.
The spcaLA special holiday appeal enabled pet lovers to make a gift in honor or memory of a special pet, including a tribute card. Newport Creative’s approach resulted in a 9.5 percent response and nearly $150,000 net. One donor who previously had given no higher than $50 gifts made a tribute gift of $10,000. Fabulous.
Epsilon’s “Big Cats” multichannel special appeal to raise funds for a new leopard habitat at the San Diego Zoo included all the right elements: spectacular imagery, a 50 percent matching grant opportunity, direct mail, website branding, email, and a special recognition incentive to add the donor’s name or a loved one’s to a commemorative plaque in the new habitat. The appeal increased net revenue by 80 percent and received a response rate of 153 percent higher than the prior year’s appeal in the same month.
Last, the MAXI Platinum Big Idea Award was awarded for the second consecutive year to St. Labre Indian School and Fundraising That Works! No children singing holiday carols this year. Just a “pink slip” highlighting the program cuts due to funding shortages. The “Shortfall Campaign” hit home and netted more than $1.2 million.