Two-Minute Interview With Betsey Fortlouis, ASPCA
While still the workhorse of most nonprofit fundraising programs, direct mail comes with its own set of production challenges. Here, Betsey Fortlouis, director of member communications for the ASPCA, shares some of the ins and outs of her organization’s direct-mail program, and how it rises above production challenges that come its way.
FundRaising Success: How frequently does your organization send out direct mail?
Betsey Fortlouis: We mail about 28 million pieces of direct mail each year. In general we mail about three to four different packages a month. Acknowledgements and sustainer packages go out on a monthly basis.
FS: What is the production flow of your direct-mail program — i.e., pre-press, printing, lettershop and mailing?
BF: We use an amazing production director who manages all of these stages for us. We look at bluelines and set-ups, but we do not have direct relationships with our vendors. All vendor relationships go through our production director. Our program is growing rapidly, and we made a decision not to bring production in-house.
FS: What are some production issues that your organization faces in regards to direct mail?
BF: Our production issues are not out of the ordinary — when we have issues they usually arise from a delay in releasing art or a certain paper stock being out, etc. About two years ago we had issues because of inclement weather that closed down one of our mail shops, delaying our mailing by several days.
FS: Are there any challenges when it comes to staying within budget and keeping the production of your direct mail on schedule? If so, how have you met those challenges head on?
BF: There are always challenges in this business, but our team works very well internally and with our outside vendors to make sure we are prepared to meet challenges and find quick and efficient solutions.
FS: What are some tried-and-true ways you’ve found to cut costs for direct-mail production?
BF: We always try to gang print on certain components to cut down costs, and our production director always bids out mailings.
FS: What are some tips you can share to avoid making mistakes that cost time and money?
BF: Open communication is the best solution. If there is a problem with postage, art, you name it — make sure all parties are aware. It’s easier to work together to find a solution.
FS: What are some ways you’ve found to have a vibrant direct-mail program in which you test new ideas often but minimize time and costs?
BF: We recently tested a bookmark in an acquisition package. The bookmark was originally used in a renewal series but we had extra inventory. It was a nice way to use up inventory and perhaps bump our response rates up.
FS: What advice can you give organizations in terms of getting the best postage rates?
BF: Think about the types of packages you are mailing and who the audience is. There are certain packages that we must mail First Class while others can go bulk/nonprofit rate. In terms of postage, it’s the biggest cost associated with direct mail, and an organization’s budget should always factor that in.
Betsey Fortlouis can be reached via www.aspca.org