Cover Story: A Historic Challenge
The program was such a potent exercise in brand awareness that the NCC later used the concept as part of its control package, which, Seiter says, remains the most successful in the center’s short history.
Getting DM involved
The NCC started its direct mail program after the groundbreaking in 2001 with very little to offer; packages couldn’t regale potential donors with promises of parties or free admission or other traditional perks, simply because the center didn’t exist yet. Donors at all levels got a newsletter and a pocket copy of the Constitution; $100 donors got a pin.
By April 2002, there were about 1,800 members on the files. As the opening drew closer, direct mail began to offer firm dates, as well as invitations to take part in activities, free admission, etc., and the response grew considerably, Seiter says. On opening day, the NCC had more than 6,000 members.
Under the direction of Membership Coordinator Betsy Murray, NCC offers a generous membership package that includes, depending on level, the newsletter, pin, pocket Constitution, free or discounted admission, and reduced ticket prices for programs that involve an additional fee. New members also get phone calls from membership staff.
“They call our members and say, ‘thank you for your membership; no, we’re not asking you for more money, we just want to talk to you,’” Seiter says. “We all do a good job of asking for money, but we have to continue to communicate with our donors, let them know how their money is used [and] how much we appreciate their support.”
Membership status of all of the original donors was grandfathered so everyone could have the first six months to get acquainted with the NCC. That means that this fall, the push will be to renew donors before their memberships lapse. By the end of the year, the NCC staff will be faced with its first efforts to win back those who do lapse.