Mobile Loaves & Fishes: A Case Study in Companion Marketing
Companion marketing, which is the practice of representing a unified marketing message across multiple mediums including direct mail and e-mail, can help fundraisers improve brand recognition, broaden a campaign’s reach and increase response rates. Once a campaign is in place, fundraisers may experience a more responsive audience and higher instances of qualified leads due to the targeted and high-touch nature of companion marketing.
In the summer of 1998, six parishioners of Saint John Neumann Catholic Church in Austin, Texas founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Mobile Loaves & Fishes. The idea was to form a social-outreach ministry by using trucks to distribute food to the homeless and indigent working poor. Now in its 11th year, the organization has grown from six members distributing 75 sack lunches one day a month in Austin to more than 10,000 volunteers providing food and clothing via 12 catering trucks in Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Providence, R.I. and Nashville, Tenn. every night of the week.
For MLF’s ninth annual Easter Donation Campaign in 2008, the organization partnered with Austin-based direct-marketing firm QuantumDigital, which donated manpower, technology and materials to incorporate online elements into the campaign for the first time.
When MLF expressed the desire to make it as convenient as possible for supporters to contribute, QuantumDigital recommended the use of personalized URLs — or PURLs — as a key step toward that goal.
The Easter fundraising campaign used a multiplatform approach that utilized both traditional direct mail and PURLs in an effort to increase the convenience of making a donation via personalized Web pages on the Internet. Using a unique media type offered by Xerox called a BRM — or business reply mailer (an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch tri-fold mailer with an attached prepaid envelope) — MLF was able to personalize 76,000 BRMs with a PURL (e.g., http://yournamehere.mlfnow.org). Upon receipt of the mailer, the recipient had the option of either going directly to a personalized Web page and placing a donation online with only a few clicks or using the provided tear-off envelop to mail in a donation.
Aside from ease of donating, using a combination of online and traditional marketing techniques also makes nonprofits better equipped to scrub lists regularly and separate responders from nonresponders. Being able to easily differentiate nonresponders allowed MLF to more precisely determine which of the recipients might need extra impressions to prompt them to take action.
This was MLF’s first campaign using PURLs. Utilizing the combination of this new technology and traditional response channels, the organization was able to raise more than $14,000.
- E-marketing is an important, cost-efficient tool for nurturing existing leads and formulating an effective fundraising campaign when used correctly.
- For even more targeted marketing pieces, fundraisers can customize e-mails on a more individual level by including personalized information, such as name or mention of past inquiries. This tactic allows fundraisers to increase chances to turn potential donors into active participants and information seekers.
- E-marketing also includes built-in tracking features offered by many direct-mail providers that can report fundraising campaign statistics. These reports can be updated in real time, which is a critical feature in the case of time-sensitive campaigns or when an organization is testing its marketing messages.