To DRTV or Not to DRTV?
Faced with declining direct-mail response rates, increased competition and rising consumer skepticism, more and more nonprofit organizations are considering direct-response television (DRTV). Done correctly, DRTV is a highly effective donor-acquisition tool. The combination of powerful visuals and engaging dialogue can bring your mission to life, turning skeptical viewers into long-term donors. But it's important to understand that DRTV is not ideal for every cause. And as with every donor-acquisition channel, there are issues and challenges unique to DRTV.
Here are some things to consider when trying to determine if this medium is the right fit for your organization.
First, your mission needs to have a broad appeal. TV cannot be targeted as effectively as direct mail or online, and narrow or niche causes simply won't generate sufficient response to justify the investment.
Second, your mission must be one that can be communicated visually. TV is, after all, a visual medium. To truly harness its power, you must be able to tell your stories in pictures.
Third, you must be willing to create a commercial or infomercial that is highly emotional. This is not a medium that rewards timidity. In fact, the opposite is true. Only commercials that are dramatic, arresting and emotionally captivating work. A program that is upbeat, positive and trumpets all of your success stories will fail miserably.
Clients that we work for, including Children International, Smile Train and SickKids Foundation, understand well the importance of creating highly emotional campaigns that focus on need. They understand that telling real stories about people who are suffering, and truly need help, is the key to success. As a result, their campaigns engage viewers, elicit compassion and drive response.
If your organization, board, donors and staff are uncomfortable with producing highly emotional content that will bring the viewer close to tears, DRTV will not work for you.