Better Than a Four-Leaf Clover
“We’re very fortunate to be able to build off a very long history of direct-marketing innovation at Mercy Home. We have a very dedicated donor file, and we’ve been mailing for over 100 years,” Schoewe says.
In 2005, a lift note from actor Dennis Farina, a former Chicago cop who remembers bringing children to Mercy Home, was included in the package to test whether a celebrity endorsement would have an effect on donor response.
“Our thought was that since our donors are, on average, older, they may not have a connection with Dennis Farina, but the package without the lift note had a lower response rate than the one with a lift note,” Schoewe says. “That showed the celebrity endorsement did help, even with donors already familiar with us.”
Last year, Farina also helped create live and taped interviews on five radio stations and did two live radio reads. He also attended the post-parade event, helping to draw media attention. In 2004, the campaign’s first year, Farina and actor Martin Sheen both were endorsers.
“Having celebrity spokespeople really helped us get media attention. We got tons more media than we would have if we tried to publicize the event without them,” Schoewe adds.
In addition to direct-mail efforts, for about a week, right before St. Patrick’s Day, volunteers sell shamrock pins with green ribbons for Mercy Home on Chicago street corners, asking donors to wear the pins on certain days to show support. Typically, during the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, volunteers sell pins around two major parade routes, the South Side Parade and the Downtown Parade. In 2004 a $1 donation was asked per pin; in 2005, it was upped to $2.
“Selling the pins is more to raise awareness than to raise funds, but this is something we’re hoping to grow quite a bit,” Schoewe says. In 2005, pin sales netted $35,000.