What Ever Happened to My Mail Carrier?
Growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, we knew our mail carrier by name. As properly raised children, we called him “Mr. Ed.” During our summer vacation from school, he often let my sister and me push the mail cart down the street for him. And when we went on vacation, Ed gave our mail to John, who was my grandparent’s mail carrier, and held it for us until we returned home. (Yes, I know that sounds like something out of a Bobbsey Twins book, or for my younger readers, like a baby boomer’s imagination gone amok. Or even a lawsuit in the offing. But things were different back in the old days …)
Fast-forward 15 or so years and I was working in my first “real” job, managing a direct-mail program for a nonprofit. Our nonprofit rate was something like 4 cents, and we mailed aggressively to acquire new names. Even as a fairly small organization, we could afford to test multiple concepts, lists and offers. Our response rate was pretty decent, and our ROI was nothing to be overly ashamed of.
But we all know the reality of the 21st century. Nonprofit postage rates are up (again). Saturday delivery may (or may not) go away. Mail carriers (at least from my survey of the few who work my neighborhood) are unhappy. Delivery has gotten careless (returning home from one three-day trip, I had mail accumulating in my box for every house on my block). Email is replacing “snail mail.” Or is it Facebook messaging, Twitter messages (if you can’t say it in 140 characters, why bother?) or texting?
Which leads to the big question: Why bother using the mail at all for fundraising? In memory of Mr. Ed (my mail carrier, not the horse), here’s my response:
People who have the capacity to give significantly are often 'of an age' that appreciates — even anticipates — their daily mail delivery
It’s been a while since I said this in my column, so here goes: You are NOT your target audience.