Beware of the self-fulfilling prophecy
When nonprofits are afraid of the election (or anthrax or the economy) and they reduce their direct-marketing efforts, their results plummet. Guaranteed.
Know your audience
Donors to your nonprofit may be a different audience than donors to political campaigns or may be giving out of a different pocket. Keep close to your donors, and keep reminding them of the importance of your cause.
Choose mail-drop dates wisely
In the 2008 election, we worked with several clients to test acquisition timing. In short, we found it better to be in-home before Oct. 7 and after Nov. 7. Note that we didn't reduce quantity; we just shifted some timing. The packages between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7 didn't do as well as those we dropped earlier or later.
Do not skip a mailing
But consider creating a cushion around the election for cultivation. Just shift your drop dates a bit to avoid the crazy period right before and after the election when donor attention is diverted.
Check your formats
Your packages need to stand out by being different from political mail (mostly big postcards and white No. 10 envelopes). Go smaller or bigger than a No. 10 size during campaign season. Use unique colors and creative envelope styles to distinguish your mailing from all the No. 10s, and stop using postcards during this time period.
Rethink DRTV and radio fundraising
You may want to avoid news networks. Since a presidential election mucks up the national media more than local, you may want to seek out more local media buys. You may also want to shift your buy to heavy up May and September. Lighten up October and the first week of November, and heavy up after the election, where possible.
Tom Harrison is the former chair of Russ Reid and Omnicom's Nonprofit Group of Agencies. He served as chair of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.