Direct Mail: Just Bring It
It started with chocolate bars. On the day after the first day of school, every year, without fail, kids would hit the streets, going door to door, to sell chocolate bars to raise money for their schools. Even the Catholic kids, whose parents already were paying big tuition, were called to action.
Soon, it was magazines, raffle tickets, wrapping paper, whatever. For a week after school started, you couldn’t answer your door without the teacher’s pet or the class clown or any one of a thousand local school kids hustling you for a sale.
I hated doing it as a child. As a parent, I refused to let my own child do it, opting instead to buy at least her individual quota myself. But despite the fact that I rallied against what I consider a shameless, bordering-on-extortion and increasingly dangerous practice, when those kids came to my door ... I bought. I still do, though fewer schools are requiring this half-pint hard sell these days.
Why did I buy? Simple ... because they asked. Which is one of the first lessons that nonprofit fundraisers need to have tattooed on their butts. (OK, maybe someplace more visible might work better.) That is: You don’t get if you don’t ask.
Lesson No. 2, which is not as simple but just as important: There is art in the asking. It’s no surprise that little Suzie Sunshine always had more luck shilling her subscriptions than did Johnny Badseed. She kept her nose clean, presented herself well and, darn it, made you feel good about buying a 3.5-ounce tin of stale, Santa-shaped candies for $12.99.
And she was rewarded. She won the envy of her peers, the adoration of her teachers, the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing you’ve given your all for a good cause and, perhaps most importantly, a shiny new transistor radio or Partridge Family lunch box.