ACS' Big, Bold Move
Hey, have you heard? Direct mail is dead! Well, that’s not true — at all. But you probably have heard it, anyway. And certainly, many marketers wish it were true because — and there is no way around it — direct mail is expensive.
But the fact remains that it is the backbone and the workhorse of nonprofit fundraising. Lots of fundraisers probably fantasize about all of the money they could save and redirect into mission if they could just eliminate those costly envelopes and letters, what with all of their printing and paper costs. And those premiums! Oy!
Not many organizations have been brazen enough to try to substantially reduce their direct-mail output. But the American Cancer Society is doing just that. The organization embarked recently on a huge, bold move to halt direct-mail acquisition and conversion efforts in a strategy designed to free up donated funds to bolster its multichannel fundraising efforts.
Let’s be clear: The organization is not eliminating direct mail across the board — just direct mail that operates only in a single medium. And, to be fair, ACS is somewhat unique among entrenched, behemoth organizations in that just 6 percent of its $900 million revenue comes from direct mail.
But this clearly is still a big move, and a complex one, with implications not only for ACS but for the fundraising sector as a whole. And no doubt, everyone in the sector will be watching and waiting to see how it will all play out.
ACS knows this, and its leadership has very graciously invited us all along for the ride. Veteran fundraising consultant and unabashed data lover Angie Moore will be chronicling the deployment of ACS’ plan, as well as the results, the victories, the hiccups, the surprises and what it all means for ACS and the sector as a whole. And Angie will be sharing the findings with us through articles in FundRaising Success and our daily e-letter, Today in Fundraising.
This month’s cover story is the first installment in Angie’s coverage of the ACS move. We ran it in Today in Fundraising, as well, because we believe it really is that important. In an Agitator blog post after the story appeared online, veteran direct-mail and fundraising powerhouse Roger Craver praised ACS for having the courage to share its journey with its nonprofit peers, as well as for embarking on the journey at all.
The world of fundraising is anything but stagnant. But change doesn’t always come easily. Or painlessly. Even — and, in some cases, especially — the largest, most established and venerable organizations have to take a chance. Maybe they even have to take a hit, and that may well be the case for ACS. But, as you’ll read in Angie’s story in this issue, the organization did its homework, calculated the risk, battened down the hatches and took the leap.
We join Roger in applauding ACS’ ballsy move in the face of the changing and increasingly challenging fundraising landscape. And we’ll ask his closing question again: What are you doing to challenge the same-old same-old?