What’s the Big Deal?
I’ve been tracking an unusual renewal series as it unfolds — a purely postal mail campaign reminiscent of coordinated multichannel campaigns.
Today, savvy nonprofits are exploiting all the multichannel possibilities and using e-mail to bookend renewal and special-appeal campaigns sent by postal mail, for example — alerting the donor that an important mailing is coming and following up after its projected arrival with another e-mail inquiring about its receipt and calling for action.
The renewal series I’ve been monitoring is using this same strategy with a sequence of physical pre- and post-mailings around a Big Deal package.
Building the anticipation
The pre-package before the Big Deal arrived on Jan. 2 — a No. 10 with a color photograph on the outer and a teaser announcing, “Your Official 2008 Membership Kit is Coming!” On the back of the outer, an image of a membership card is accompanied by a list of what the kit will include. Inside, a letter alerts me that, “I am sending you a very special gift next week for being such a loyal, steadfast friend … The Members Only 2008 Member Kit!”
Lasered on the front with the reply on the top panel, the letter is personalized with my name in both the salutation and later in the body copy. I believe it could have been improved with a personalized ask string based on my giving history rather than the static array printed on the back of the letter, especially for donors for whom the ask amounts are less than what they’ve given in the past. With the exception of the four-color printing on the carrier envelope, this looks to be an inexpensive package — a key component to the sequencing strategy.
Voila! The Big Deal!
On Jan. 26, the promised Membership Kit full of goodies arrived in a new, ultra-slim box roughly the size of a No. 10 envelope, allowing the organization to benefit from U.S. Postal Service automation discounts even with a dimensional premium enclosed.
The Big Deal box is printed to look nearly identical to the previous effort, with the same photograph, graphics and fonts used for the teaser and membership-card image on the back.
There are two differences, however. In the pre-mailing, there is no graphic depicting the key chain like the one on the Big Deal box. And oddly, while the pre-mailing membership card indicates that I am a “2008 Platinum Member,” the card graphic on the Big Deal box has downgraded me to a mere “2008 Member.” It’s not something your average donor would likely notice, but my bet is the “Platinum Member” status is an extra motivator best used consistently throughout the series for maximum impact.
Inside the Big Deal box is everything I had been promised, and all of it lives up to and exceeds expectations, from the key chain, wallet calendar and several sheets of address labels to the credit card-quality membership card with raised letters, personalized with my name in metallic silver — as a “2008 Platinum Member” with a 12/08 expiration date.
Did you get it?
Two days later, on Jan. 28, a faux rush delivery notice arrived in a No. 10 envelope with a “VERY IMPORTANT” teaser, falcon graphic and red hash marks blazing across the front and back in a diagonal.
An urgent telegram-style letter in all caps requests my immediate response because, “I recently sent your personalized 2008 Membership Kit and have not heard from you.” Here again, a missed opportunity to personalize the ask array on the lasered front of the letter; and the printed ask string on the back begins at an amount even lower than before.
Printed in red and black with a canary BRE, even with the inclusion of a small member decal, this looks to be an inexpensive and effective follow-up to the much pricier Big Deal package.
The package that arrived on Feb. 11 is another Big Deal package. A 6-inch-by-9-inch outer with a color illustration and a “2008 Membership Renewal!” teaser, the carrier has the added bonus of an oval, metallic gold piggy-back label printed with “2008 Member.”
Inside is a collection of note cards and coordinating address labels and envelope seals. And the matching envelopes are not plain white, but rather are tinted the color of orange sherbet.
Attached to the letter are two tipped-on paper membership cards, one personalized in my name and a second lasered “The Seville Family” for the 2008 Family Member to whom I will pass it along. A series of four steps directs me to remove the cards, put the gold sticker from the outer on my card as shown, check “YES” on the Membership Renewal Acceptance Form and send an “extra special, generous 2008 Family Membership Renewal Gift.”
Wrap it up!
On Feb. 22, the Winter 2008 issue of the organization’s quarterly magazine arrived in an impossible-to-miss wrap. Printed in bold red and black, the front of the wrap shouts “YOUR MEMBERSHIP IS EXPIRING” and directs me to the renewal form bound inside the issue. On the back, another giant red box sounds the alarm: “DON’T LET THIS BE YOUR LAST ISSUE.”
There is nothing subtle about it, and kudos to this and every nonprofit able to integrate membership and communications programs so successfully, given that newsletters and magazines often are controlled by different departments.
By surrounding Big Deal packages with much cheaper pre- and post-mailings, and building on the renewal messaging with each successive campaign, organizations like this one can maximize income while holding the line on the overall cost of raising funds.
So what’s the catch?
On Dec. 31, 2007, I mailed this organization a check for $50, and the funds were withdrawn from my account on Jan. 7. I have yet to have my gift acknowledged, months later. I would say it’s an aberration, except that on Dec. 30, 2006, I mailed it a check for $50, and the check cleared on Jan. 4, 2007. The organization never thanked me for that gift, either.
And that’s an even Bigger Deal than any Big Deal package it sends me going forward.
If you’re worried about your renewal rate and donor retention, don’t look to your renewal strategy alone. My experience monitoring the practices of dozens and dozens of organizations is that the greatest Big Deal package or the most brilliant renewal series imaginable can’t compensate for a repeated failure to acknowledge donors’ gifts. And, unfortunately, this organization is far from alone in that shortcoming. FS