Kiss the Competition
May 16, 2006
By Bob Knight
As it planned its annual campaign for last fall, United Way of the Lower Mainland on Canada's west coast had no way of knowing that its direct-mail efforts to address one competitor for donor dollars would help it overcome a more serious threat raised by another.
The initial competitor was the Make Poverty History campaign that had been launched recently and a supporting Live 8 rock concert that was scheduled for a Canadian venue in July 2005.
The question was whether MPH's efforts to eradicate poverty around the world would take away from United Way's local efforts. Rather than try to go head to head with MPH, United Way worked to create a symbiotic relationship with it by reminding people that while MPH is fighting poverty in various parts of the world, United Way is the organization fighting it at home.
The headline of the UWLM letter stated, "With the recent Make Poverty History rock concerts, kind-hearted people offered their help to needy children in various parts of the world. Today I'm asking you to also have a positive impact on some children in your very own community who need your help."
"The wonderful thing about the strategy we employed is that it allowed us to promote our cause while saluting theirs," says Peter Coombes, UWLM's direct-marketing coordinator. "At the same time, it allowed us to more clearly position ourselves."
The UWLM campaign was set to be mailed on Sept. 2, 2005. On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the southern Gulf Coast. Like most people across North America, residents of the Lower Mainland were horrified by the devastation they witnessed on TV every hour of the day, and they opened their checkbooks to relief organizations.
Fortunately, despite how much money was funneled to MPH during the summer and to Katrina relief in late August and September 2005, UWLM's symbiotic annual DM campaign performed better than past ones. Response rates and average gift amounts were higher than ever with donors. And it was the same with prospects.