An Unkind Cut?
Alley Cat Allies is a Bethesda, Md.-based national clearinghouse for information on feral and stray cats devoted to reducing the number of domestic and feral cats through nonlethal methods. The organization publishes a quarterly newsletter, AlleyCatAction, that showcases groups and individuals around the country who are improving conditions for feral and stray cats; it’s been sending the 8.5-inch-by-10.5-inch non-glossy newsletter to its house file of past and current donors for about five years.
Two years ago, ACA redesigned the eight-page newsletter to include a donation ask on the seventh page for donors to cut out and return with a donation in the BRE. The cut-out had a general donation gift string, a box donors could check to receive information on the organization’s monthly donor program, and an option to request information on including ACA in their estate planning. The inclusion of the cut-out reply device generated increased donations in response to the newsletter.
Coming in to the organization around the time of this success but seeing an opportunity to increase response, Elise Ravenscroft, development director for ACA, suggested a test: the current newsletter mailing with a cut-out reply device versus a newsletter mailed with a 3.5-inch-by-8.5-inch free-floating reply device in addition to the cut-out inside the newsletter. On one side of the free-floating reply was the general, one-time gift string, while the other side gave donors the option to receive information on workplace giving; donating property or stock; including ACA in their estate planning; and joining ACA’s monthly giving program. The revenue the newsletter control mailing was generating was great and the response excellent, but Ravenscroft’s theory was that forcing recipients to cut out a portion of the newsletter was actually deterring response because they wanted to keep it intact.
Results to the test proved she was right. For the first test, ACA mailed 86,000 newsletters with the free-floating reply. It cost the organization an additional $3,000 to add the insert, she says. But despite the minimal increase in cost, the test mailing brought in $149,000 gross, while the newsletter control it tested against typically averaged about $75,000 to $80,000. The organization saw an increase in donations and responses to its estate-planning and monthly giving programs.