‘Dear Skippy …’
Imagine a school fundraising letter so personlized that it contains a quote not from just any teacher at the school, but rather from your child’s teacher. Or both your children’s different teachers. A letter that also went to the Joneses down the street, but with quotes from the Jones kids’ teachers.
Variable data imaging allows mailers to create mail pieces with different, often highly personalized text and images; its use so far has been mostly by for-profit mailers for high-value direct-mail campaigns, bills, statements and invoices. But Sarasota, Fla.-based private school The Out-of-Door Academy took a shot with it and found great success.
Realizing the limitations of its basic letterhead appeal, the school partnered with Venice, Fla.-based direct-marketing firm One to One Gulfcoast and New York-based software provider XMPie to create a variable data direct-mail campaign that incorporated personalized letters, postcards and phone-a-thons. The new strategy mined a database rich with information on the students, their families, their families’ giving histories and even students’ nicknames.
“Instead of addressing our constituents as ‘Dear parent’ or ‘Dear friend,’ with the standard text of building a case for making that ask to support our school, we used the information we knew about each constituent, which was individual to each person or each family, and we incorporated that somehow into the body of the letter,” says David Olson, director of advancement for the school.
For the campaign, the school re-created its letterhead and incorporated images that varied depending on the particular campus each student attended. The effort also used focus groups to collect statements from school faculty and staff so each letter could contain a quote from a child’s teacher. For families with more than one child attending the school, the data was pulled so there were quotes from each child’s teacher in the same letter.