Sending Feathers, Making Friends
I don’t remember if my first impression was visual or tactile, but I do know I shoved aside that day’s mailbox loot to concentrate on the captivating pink baronial.
Rough in texture and squishy, the outer envelope looked like a child’s drawing — markers on stock just shy of pulpy construction paper. A tidy, white label addressed to me flew the package; the back was equally colorful with a big, yellow sunflower and a leaf that seemed to drift on a breeze.
Inside I discovered the partially deflated Bubble Wrap® liner, the explanation for the envelope’s squishiness. And — aha! — as I felt the lump of something inside, I realized it’s a clever way to mail the enclosed lapel pin without a more expensive dimensional box.
A gift from the Native American Rights Fund, this feather lapel pin has special meaning. The letter opening explains:
“The other day I was talking with my little friend, Helen, about eagle feathers. She asked me why they were so special, and I told her that in our Native American culture, when people have earned the right to wear an eagle feather they are honored for being strong and following their beliefs and making the world a better place for others.”
Hence the offer of a feather pin, with the hope that I wear it as a symbol of my partnership in the organization’s fight for justice. The premium is an important emblem, and it is both for me and about me, in addition to tangibly bonding me more closely with the organization. Very well done.
Even better than the feather pin …
My hands-down favorite component, however — and why this package has won a place in my “Keep Forever” file — is a magenta greeting-card envelope hand-addressed “For Ms. Kimberly M. Seville” in what is believably a child’s printing. Inside, I discovered a note from Helen, the little girl who asked about what eagle feathers mean.
Designed to look like a sheet of notebook paper, the child art from the carrier appears here again along with a tipped-on snapshot of darling 6-year-old Helen. Her note tells me about her and how friends at Native American Rights Fund help her and her family. It is signed (misspelling and all) “Your freind, [heart] Helen [heart].”
Was this additional, personalized component necessary? It’s a very testable proposition, to be sure. With the significant cost of an up-front lapel-pin package alone, the added cost of Helen’s snapshot and note inside the personalized magenta envelope might not be covered by an increase in response.
But this is an example of where I advocate reading test results over a longer period of time, rather than determining the impact of the added cost solely by this one campaign. Meaning — do donors who receive this level of additional cultivation give more over the ensuing six months to a year? Are they more likely to upgrade? Do they become more responsive to an invitation to become a monthly donor? And measured over many years, are they more likely to make bequests? All good things to know before a short-term view might lead you to believe you can’t afford it.
Feathers from another friend
In contrast to the much more expensive feather lapel-pin package, an effort from Sesame Workshop is a simple No. 10 window outer containing a nonpersonalized, one-sheet, one-sided letter; a three-panel reply device; and a No. 9 courtesy reply envelope.
But for all the production simplicity, the offer is a stunner. As the Johnson box above the salutation explains:
“Everyday on Sesame Street, as Big Bird learns, grows, and discovers new things with his friends, he leaves a little trail of feathers here and there. We’ve been collecting those fallen feathers, and now offer them to you as a unique way to honor others.”
In its “Say it with feathers!” campaign, Sesame Workshop turns up the volume on a classic tribute-gift offer with the addition of an inexpensive, tangible symbol of its mission fulfilled on the back end. What’s not to love about that!?
A brief but effective letter explains how to celebrate and honor friends, family, co-workers, clients, teachers and others by using the reply, going online or calling a New York City phone number, with a deadline for holiday fulfillment. (I’d have offered a toll-free number, but three different ways to “Say it with feathers” is excellent.)
Then the postscript turns it around to make it about me, too. “And if you’d like a feather for yourself, just let us know. After all, you deserve a feather in your cap, too.”
Given what Sesame Workshop does for kids in the areas of laughter, learning, respect, understanding, and helping them to be resilient and flexible in a rapidly changing world … I think I just made a dent in my Christmas shopping!
Finding your own ‘feathers’
What makes both of these offers so compelling, in part, is the clear connection between the premium and its relevance to the organization’s mission and to the donor. The eagle-feather lapel pin and Big Bird’s feathers have substance and gravitas that put them in a league apart from the everyday address labels and note cards realm.
So the question is, how do we make the offer more irresistible without pushing package costs into the stratosphere? Or, how can we make the offer more meaningful, tangible and harder to discard?
They’re tough questions for mailers of all types, but the most successful fundraisers never stop asking them, taking calculated risks to test into winning answers. FS
Kimberly Seville is a creative strategist and freelance copywriter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org