Webinar Follow-up: An Hour With Roger Craver
On Feb. 25, FundRaising Success hosted the webinar, “Integrated Direct Mail 101: An hour with Roger Craver.” Joining Roger, a fundraising guru and founder of Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co., for this lively conversation was his colleague Ryann Miller, managing director at DonorTrends.
Though we managed to get to a lot of the questions submitted live by attendees during the webinar, there were some we just didn’t have time to get answered. Here then, as promised, are Roger and Ryann’s responses to those questions. As you’ll see, they run the gamut of subjects from paper stock and postage to telefundraising and text campaigns.
Q: What do you mean by SMS? Do people actually do text campaigns?
Ryann Miller: There are two types of SMS campaigns: 1) pushing out messaging (reminders and the like), and 2) action-oriented campaigns that ask you to forward something on or make a micro donation. Mobile fundraising campaigns are becoming more commonplace in the U.S. It is important to remember that these campaigns are for micro donations — usually $5 at a time. The Salvation Army launched a successful mobile campaign during the Thanksgiving-to-holiday season. Check out an article on it.
Q: How much lower are online stats now [compared to previous years]?
Roger Craver: The response rates for online giving in 2008 vs. 2007 were on par with those of the year before. The size of the average gift was 15 percent lower.
Q: What is Third Class mail?
RC: This is a classification of mail in the U.S. Under Third Class or Third Class Nonprofit, organizations are given a huge discount in price for submitting presorted mail (sorted in the way a letter carrier walks his/her route).
However, unlike First Class mail, the U.S. Postal Service is under no obligation to deliver it in a timely way. Thus, Third Class mail can take weeks or sometimes even months to deliver. Because of its cost advantages, Third Class mail is generally used for acquisition or prospecting efforts.
Q: What about formatting like using bold text, underlining, italics, etc.
RC: Formatting techniques should be used appropriate to the style/tone of the message you’re creating. Both underlining and boldfacing words stops the eyes and calls attention to that message block. The technique therefore is appropriate. But be alert to the fact that it can be overused. Picture the reader in your mind’s eye, and let that picture guide you on what’s appropriate and what’s not.
Q: What is the percentage of women DM donors vs. men?
RC: Overall, about 55 percent women, 45 percent men. Of course, some causes skew because of the affinity nature of the organization. Women’s rights organizations tend to be female-gender dominant, sports organizations male domininant.
Q: Should you have a PS, and how important is it?
RM: Research shows that people mostly read just a little at the top and skip to the bottom of the letter to see who signed it. People also read the PS very frequently. You should assume that the PS will be read over the main body of your copy. Therefore, it is crucially important to have a PS. As a general rule, the PS restates the core ask and tells the donor where her money will go or what difference it will make. The above is the same for e-mail.
Q: Roger, why have social-service agencies (children's groups, etc.) had trouble effectively using direct mail?
RC: Those organizations that focus their acquisition programs on monthly sponsorships generally use television and telephone conversion rather than mail. This is because TV best communicates the emotional dimension of sponsorship, and the telephone is the ideal conversion/selling medium for larger and more complex gifts like monthly installment contributions. However, mail is and has been used successfully for many child-related causes. CARE, Project HOPE, Heifer Project, etc.
The issue, always, is one of willingness to invest … the time it takes to recover that acquisition investment … and the ROI an organization requires over a specific time period.
Q: Does an attachment stamp invite engagement/participation/partnership? Or stifle/delay response?
RC: As a general rule, attaching a stamp on a reply envelope increases participation and also speeds response. However, as in the case of all “general rules,” this should be tested for your organization.
Q: How critical is the type of paper used for the letter? Our organization always wants to use watermarked, four-color letterhead on everything that goes to donors. Can you comment on this?
RC: Your organization should cut out the expensive paper and use the savings to give you a raise for bringing up the question. Almost NEVER does the quality of stock make a meaningful difference in response or average gift. In fact, in some packages — urgent ones, action ones — “cheap” paper connotes speed and urgency. Watermarked paper connotes luxury and leisure.
Q: What is considered a good response rate to a nonprofit annual appeal?
RC: There is no “universal” good response rate. Most of the hundreds I’ve seen vary between 5 percent and 30 percent. Usually the smaller the file, the higher the response rate because, usually, small files represent hand-built files of very carefully selected prospects.
What is important in watching response rates is to see which types of appeals beat the norm and which underperform. Response rates are a fundamental vital sign on messaging and relevance.
Q: Did you say that, as a rule of thumb, direct-mail pieces should always be longer than a page?
RC: Yes, but only as a general rule. Sometimes a short letter can be powerful. In 1972 (during the Nixon-McGovern presidential race), the Democratic National Committee sent out a one-page letter: “Dear Friend. There are two reasons I need your check, and need it today: Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Sincerely, Lawrence T. O’Brien."
Q: Where would a telemarketing call fall in the mix of a direct-mail campaign?
RC: Telemarketing should be used in conjunction with direct mail where you need the added boost of detailed explanation, the ability to answer questions on a complex offer, or where you want the donor to be personally thanked and more involved. For example, once someone has made their first gift by mail, an ideal use of the telephone is to call them up, thank them and ask for a monthly commitment of $10 or $15. Another is to call folks up for renewal, personally thank them, and either tell them their renewal is in the mail or take their renewal over the phone. And, of course it’s always great to simply pick up the phone and thank someone for a gift or thank them on their fifth anniversary of supporting your organization.
Despite it’s wide use, in my opinion, telemarketing is still a very underutilized medium. It is so powerful and so easy to test, I’m always amazed at the reluctance of many fundraisers to tap into its power.
And, remember, study after study shows that even if someone says “no” to a telefundraising call, 15 percent to 20 percent increase their giving to the organization simply because they’ve been communicated with personally.
Q: Is the “coin” tactic in the same realm as using premiums (address labels, cling-ons, etc.)?
RC: Yes. In the trade they’re known as freemiums. They work best and are most believable when the coin or whatever device can be directly tied to the message.