“We tend to skew a little bit younger: 23 percent of our donors are under the age of 50, and an additional 25 percent are between 50 and 60 years old,” says Fiona Walsh, marketing director for MSF, commenting on the 700,000 strong who contribute via direct mail. “Our donor base has an almost even ratio of men versus women, and our supporters tend to live in more urban areas, although we do have broad support from across the United States.”
For a direct mail program not even a decade old, MSF will drop a total of 8.5 million acquisition pieces over seven different launch dates in 2005.
“In acquisition, we have found that we have the most success when we provide donors with a detailed overview of MSF’s work, including an insert on our financial ratios,” Walsh notes.
The organization’s current No. 10 envelope control is simple in design and approach, and includes a one-page letter signed by Executive Director Nicolas de Torrente, an insert that illustrates how MSF uses its funds, and a front-end premium of name-and-address labels.
“We’ve had a really hard time beating it in the last ten years,” Walsh shares. “We’ve made some tweaks and changes here and there, but the main approach of the control piece has pretty much stayed the same over time.”
The package will see myriad modifications, albeit small, as current humanitarian crises around the world evolve. MSF often will use its direct mail to alert the public about new and devastating outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as in January 2004, when it profiled some of the geographic regions in danger of an epidemic.
“We talked about malaria in one country, meningitis in another, measles in another,” Walsh says. “The next month we talked about what was then just starting to be a problem in Sudan and Chad. We try to make our direct mail geographically diverse and current to what we’re doing and seeing on the ground.”