Donor Focus: Gays and Lesbians
Food pantries and hunger-relief charities: Organizations that service needy inner-city individuals also have gone to gays for donations.
Those groups have tapped into an affluent, loyal demographic. Says Knoebel: “The people who are active in the gay community, namely those who identify themselves as such by pursuing consumer actions like subscribing to a magazine or donating to a cause, tend to be in a higher income group.”
A study released this year by market-research firms Witeck Combs Communications and MarketResearch.com indicated that the disposable personal income for the country’s 15 million gay and bisexual people totals $485 billion. A significant percentage of self-identified gays and lesbians possess this spending power because they have few of the financial burdens associated with raising a traditional family. Most fall under the “DINKS” classification — Double Income, No Kids. Therefore, they enjoy the economic independence to travel, donate to charity and pursue an affluent, urban lifestyle.
But as Knoebel attests, addressing the gay community by direct mail — as opposed to advertising in the gay press — requires complete discretion.
“It runs counter to what you do in direct mail. You try to make the most direct connection you can on the outer envelope so it gets opened,” Knoebel says. “Here, you must be more subtle, or the recipient might think you are ‘outing’ them in the mail.”
A sense of community
Charlie Conard, president of New York City-based Tribe Marketing Group, a direct mail marketing and design firm that specializes in gay-focused solicitations for for-profits and nonprofits, has found success by conveying a sense of “community” and “togetherness” on the carrier envelope without employing stereotypical images.
“You want to reach out in a way that engenders community. Gay [direct mail] donors tend to be older, and a lot of them came out as adults, so they understand the value of community, which was especially important during the HIV/AIDS crisis,” says Conard, who designs solicitations for many gay and lesbian organizations, including Senior Action in the Gay Environment.