You Want the Appeal Out by When?
President John F. Kennedy gave NASA a decade to get to the moon. My kids give Santa a year to come through with presents. But I wonder if the rocket scientists and St. Nick have the same “under-the-gun” feeling that many direct mail fundraisers have when preparing the next big campaign.
Both experienced and newbie fundraisers alike know that successful campaigns require an investment of financial resources and time. We’ve dealt with the financial issues, now let’s deal with time — the one resource of which we all have the same amount to spend.
I consulted numerous fundraising-industry colleagues at other agencies and organizations to find out how these folks use their time and what variables trip up even the best in the business. The consensus among more than a dozen of my peers is that it takes at least eight weeks from concept to mail to avoid overtime charges and mistakes due to haste.
That said, emergency appeals can be launched in hours if you’re prepared. Large quantities of 1 million addresses or more, coupled with a new agency-client relationship, can also add more time. So, while eight weeks was the median response, everyone agrees that each campaign is unique.
Most of my sources, however, mentioned two major phases that come into play. There’s the “concept to disk phase,” in which the campaign is designed and written; and then there’s the “disk to mail” phase, which sends the campaign into production and then into the mailstream.
Again, most agree that you must devote at least four weeks to the strategic and creative phase, and at least another four weeks to production.
Managing the process
There are myriad variables that can wreak havoc on even the most sound campaign strategies. When working with prospect-generation campaigns, for instance, you will have to manage the aspects of bringing in outside lists.