Sustaining strong results for an 18-year control package is no easy feat, even if you’re an aggressive direct mailer such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which dropped 7 million cold-mail acquisition pieces in its last fiscal year alone.
And while it’s no surprise that PETA’s pack has seen myriad tweaks and tests and format changes over the years, the nexus has been a simple, straightforward questionnaire, with jarring inquiries such as: “Did you realize that the vast majority of painful animal experimentation has no relation at all to human survival or the elimination of disease?”
“Surveys have been a mainstay of direct-mail fundraising for many years,” avows Scott Anderson, senior vice president for development at PETA, commenting on the concept’s effectiveness and longevity for his organization. “One of the reasons why we use surveys is because we get a lot of [prospect] names of non-donor responders, who we then re-mail.”
PETA’s self-generated prospect file — those individuals who take the time to fill out the survey but opt not to write a check — receive acquisition mail for up to a year, as their shelf life tends to wane
dramatically after several appeals with no response. Anderson reports, however, a steady 2 percent to 3 percent response rate from these non-donor prospects.
PETA is comfortably contented at the moment, at least as much as can be expected from active direct mailers, with an overall response rate of “well above 1 percent” and an average gift of $17.
“There are changes that are made every time we mail it, but [they] usually are minor, having to do with facts or figures or quotes,” Anderson notes. “The basic gist of the package hasn’t changed in 18 years, which is a shocking concept. A lot of people come to animal-rights [organizations] because of the issue of animal testing. Our package has always focused on, to a large degree, the issue of vivisection animal testing.”
Outrage, awe and inspire
Amid a four-page letter, sheet of name-and-address labels and questionnaire, PETA presents two reproductions of advertisements from Lab Animal magazine in the form of a traditional insert. One of the ads features a picture of a cuddly cat and dog, with the call-out copy: “When it Comes to Your Study, You’ll Find Our Animals Pass the Test.”