#TBTFundraising: Rekindle Your Passion
I became a direct-response donor (mail was my only option then!) in the late ’70s and early ’80s — first as a teenager attending high school in my hometown of Clarksburg, W.V., and later as a college student in Washington, D.C. My scrapbooks are full of the packages that grabbed my attention and my small gifts that were made from working in the local drug store or waiting tables. They are the history of a youth that believed in ERA NOW, equal pay for women, reproductive rights and an independent candidate for president.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would one day actually own the company that produced those fabulous pieces of advocacy and fundraising. But here I am! And one of my favorite things to do lately is to dive in to those archives and celebrate with Throwback Thursday Fundraising (#TBTFundraising) each week.
I highly recommend that you do the same thing with your archives. There are treasures in your closets, sample books and art files, and I promise if you dip into yours that you will not only have a great time on the journey each week but learn some things along the way.
My journey includes wonderful memories of the late Sheri O’Dell, a marvelous woman and copywriter with a big heart and one of the best activists and champions of women that I have ever known or hoped to know.
O’Dell would sit at her desk at Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co. with her framed ERA memorabilia and photos of her beloved West Virginia on the walls and pound out some of the best fundraising packages to hit the mailstream. Her passion for the causes and her way with prose could cause the reader to get angry (with righteous anger!), take action, and make a donation to causes that ranged from gun control to abortion rights to constitutional rights and human dignity. I miss her — reading her packages makes her come alive again. She believed everything she wrote, and you could feel that when you read her words.
Do you have that passion in your fundraising packages and emails? That kind of passion is a throwback we all need to make sure we resurrect every time we head to the keyboard to prepare our donor communications. If it doesn’t make us feel something when we write it, edit it or approve it — well, then, we should not really send it to our donors, should we?
Blasts from the past
Besides a journey down memory lane, our #TBTFundraising has reminded me that some of the best things in donor communications past are still strong today. The mail of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s included some really great stuff — and some of it should not have gone away just because technology changed or postage got higher. Here are a very few of the many treasures that I uncovered in the #CMSArchives:
- A 9-inch-by-12-inch brown kraft with a double window — printed with the flap on the side instead of the top. A simple teaser, “Your signature here can help convince 2 key men that we want the ERA now!” seems irresistible. The package includes two “Citizen Petitions” — one to Ron Brown (chairman of the Democratic National Committee) and one to Lee Atwater (chairman of the Republican National Committee) — and an ask string that is a control for many organizations still today: __ $25 __$35* __$50 __$75 __$100 __ Other $______
- Would any of us have the nerve to go with a teaser today as edgy as this classic from Handgun Control (now the Brady Campaign)? “Enclosed: Your first real chance to tell the National Rifle Association to Go To Hell …”
- It is interesting to see that many of the issues from our archives are still the issues of today. There are many packages urging donors to help keep abortion safe and legal — with an eye-catching teaser on a NARAL Pro-Choice America package that says, “WHO DECIDES? YOU OR THEM?” This envelope is full of the things that make mail great — a bumper sticker, a pledge for the donor to sign that is part of the reply device, and strong activist language that includes: “The battle is raging. And all of us who believe this most personal decision must be ours, not the politicians’, must mobilize. That’s why the National Abortion Rights Action League — the political arm of the pro-choice movement — has launched the next phase of its massive NATIONAL ACTION MOBILIZATION CAMPAIGN.” Powerful language and a bumper sticker. What fun!
- Another letter begins: “Dear Friend: I urgently need your help in writing a full-page ad that will appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today.”
- I found letters with Johnson boxes that take up the top third of page one and are so compelling you don’t even need to read the letter to go straight to the reply device. (Oops, I can’t give to something that was mailed in the 1980s, can I?)
- There are letters signed by Robert Redford, Jacques Cousteau, Millard Fuller, Molly Yard, Ellie Smeal, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Coretta Scott King, Morris Dees, Kurt Vonnegut, Ira Glaser, Ted Kennedy, Susan Sarandon, President Jimmy Carter, Geraldine Ferraro, John Anderson and so many more. We have framed some of the original signatures — relics of the old days. I recommend you do the same; it is a nice reminder of the folks who cared enough to lend their names and signatures to the cause(s) you care about and the missions you work to further.
Please join us each week on Facebook and Twitter and post your #TBTFundraising packages. Many of our fundraising successes of the past can teach us about good donor communication today. The personalization, the passion, the inserts, the simplicity and the basics are never old-fashioned when it comes to good fundraising. (And thanks to Roger Craver, Jerry Huntsinger, Bob Levy, Barry Fishler, Barry Cox, Kimberly Seville, Pru Bovee, Rusty Varney, Jake Koenigsberg, Dalton Fuqua and so many others whose motivational packages fill the archives at CMS.)
And who knows, if we learn something from our #TBTFundraising we may even find ourselves with some #TBTDonorLoyalty.
Ellen Cobb Church is CEO at Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co. and a member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ecobbchurch