16 Tips for Crafting a Powerful Postcard Campaign

As you might imagine, I regularly receive direct mail appeals from many charities. Most of them are truly “junk mail.” After a quick glance, I quickly deposit the junk appeals into the recycling bin where they will do much more good than their intended purpose.

JFGP Postcard (front, back)

JFGP Postcard (click for larger image)

Occasionally, I’ll receive a mailing that captures my attention, for the right reasons. Even more rarely, I’ll find something in my mailbox that is worthy of sharing with you. Earlier this month, I found just such a piece.

The postcard mailing from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia arrived shortly before the Passover and tied into the holiday. This post contains an image of the front and back of the postcard so you can see it for yourself. Federation did a great job with the piece. So, let me take a few moments to share some tips we all can learn from it:

1. Get rid of the envelope. One of the greatest challenges with direct mail is getting people to open the envelope. They won’t get your message unless they do. If you can get your message across in a way that does not require a full mailing package, you can overcome this challenge by simply doing away with the envelope altogether. Federation’s postcard mailing has done exactly that.

2. Employ a pattern interrupt. Another challenge with direct mail involves figuring out ways to engage the recipient so they spend more than two seconds with the piece before tossing it into the trash. When most folks go through their mail, they quickly look for the fun stuff and bills. People quickly weed-out what appears to be junk.

So, how did Federation disrupt the typical mail-sorting pattern? They did it with two very different photos on the front of an odd-sized postcard. While speedily going through my mail, I noticed an old-fashioned, sepia-tone photo of an older couple on the postcard. Beside it, there was a contemporary color picture of a cute, young child eating matzo. The postcard got me to ask, “Huh, what’s this about?”

In other words, Federation caught my attention by being unusual and by presenting contrasting photographs. They knocked me out of my normal mail-sorting pattern.

3. Make it easy to read. By printing black type on a white background, Federation provides strong contrast that makes reading easier. While reverse type was used — something I normally do not approve of — it was used sparingly and with a larger serif font ensuring easy readability.

4. Keep the message brief but impactful. In about 50 words, I learned that Mr. and Mrs. Schweig had passed away long ago. However, I also learned they had contributed to Federation. Most compellingly, I discovered that their generous support would feed 1,500 community members in need during Passover.

The generosity of the Schweigs impressed me. The depth of the community need surprised me. The organization really had my attention.

5. Engage the reader. I was already engaged with the postcard when the photos caught my attention and I read the pithy message on the front of the card. However, the card engaged me further with a simple question: “What will your legacy be?” By asking the reader a question, you can get them to stop and think.

6. Provide more details. On the address-side of the postcard, the reader is told that Mr. and Mrs. Schweig made their gift through a bequest. Providing additional details and telling people where they can get even more information will satisfy all readers and their individual levels of curiosity.

7. Demonstrate impact. Donors want to make a difference. Whether they give to the annual fund or make a planned gift commitment, people want to know that their support will have a positive impact. They want to know that their donations will be used efficiently to help the organization fulfill its mission.

This postcard shows how the support of past donors is being put to good use. The implied messages are: We wisely use the support from past donors to help the community. We can help you to have a positive, high-impact as well.

8. Show appreciation. By recognizing two deceased donors, Federation sends the message that the organization remembers donors even after they are no longer physically with us. By thanking Mr. and Mrs. Schweig for their impactful support, Federation is letting all donors know their support is valued.

For those considering leaving a legacy gift, these are meaningful messages. While some people may not necessarily want to secure a measure of immortality, all donors will be happy to know that they can continue to have a positive impact on the lives of others after they themselves are gone.

9. Speak their language. The term “bequest” can be confusing or off-putting to some. It’s best to use simple, plain language when communicating with the public. While the postcard uses the word “bequest,” it also uses the phrase “…to include Federation in your Will…” Using simple language will appeal to the largest audience. 

10. Include a call to action. The postcard includes a call to action. It lets readers know that the Federation staff is ready to talk with and assist them with bequest language or information about other giving options. It also invites readers to contact Federation to “establish your Jewish legacy.”

11. Offer to help. In its call to action, Federation offers to be of assistance: “Federation staff members are happy to provide bequest language to include Federation in your Will…” Be giving. Do not just let readers think you want something from them. Offer them something of value.

12. Build trust. The postcard builds trust in a variety of ways. One way that caught my attention, because I don’t often see it, is the postcard mentions that Federation staff are willing to speak with the reader and/or his financial planner.

By acknowledging that prospective donors may have advisors that they will want to consult and by offering to work with rather than behind the back of those advisors, Federation is sending out a message that can help earn the trust of both the prospect and the advisor.

13. Provide a named contact. People are far more likely to respond to an individual than a faceless institution. The postcard encourages readers to contact “Rachel A. Gross.” The card could just as easily have suggested folks contact the “Development Office” or the “Planned Giving Department.” However, by giving people the name of a specific person to contact, the postcard makes it more likely some folks will actually reach out.

14. Make it easy for people to contact you. The postcard provides readers with four ways they can contact the organization: regular mail, email (Rachel’s actual email address), phone (Rachel’s actual direct phone number), and website (URL to the appropriate landing page).

Some people prefer communicating one way over another. Providing folks with options allows them to choose what works best for them. It’s part of being donor-centered.

15. Do not mess with the Post Office. Make sure to keep the address area and the space below it completely clear. Postal scanners can be thrown off by printed messages in or near the address area. This can result in delayed or undelivered mail. Also, make sure to use the correct postage for the size of your mailing. If using a postal permit, make sure there is sufficient money in the account.

16. Do not just send one postcard. If you only have the budget to send one postcard to your prospects, you should probably spend the money on something else. To be truly effective, a postcard mailing should be part of a series of mailings. And, ideally, articles and/or ads in your organization’s publication will support the mailings. In other words, a postcard mailing should be part of a multi-faceted marketing strategy. This is the case at Federation.

After studying the postcard, I contacted Rachel A. Gross, Esq., Director of Planned Giving and Endowments at Federation, to learn more about the organization’s marketing strategy. She provided some insight into the campaign. She told me:

We wanted to show real people from our community and how their gifts continue to make a difference.”

She also told me that the postcard is part of an overall campaign that includes display advertisements every other week in The Jewish Exponent, the community’s weekly newspaper owned by Federation. The ads highlight bequests (3/4 of the time) and Charitable Gift Annuities (1/4 of the time). There will be two more postcard mailings before the end of the fiscal year on August 31.

As for the ads, some will feature younger donors who have made commitments but whose gifts will not be realized for years to come. Rachel’s strategy is to show different donors — young, old, male, female — in the hope that the ads will speak to different people.

While a consultant can be of great value when preparing a postcard mailing and/or marketing strategy, it’s possible to put together a terrific campaign in-house. That’s what Federation did. The team that put the campaign together includes Rachel, Susan Lundy (Endowment Officer), Jessica Endy (Director of Marketing and Communications), and Mark Berman (Creative Services Manager).

As a donor to Federation and as a former member of its Board of Trustees, I’m glad to see that the organization has implemented a solid marketing strategy. It’s a strategy that all nonprofit organizations can learn something from.

What are you doing to communicate effectively with your donors and prospects? If you dare, what have you learned the hard way?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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10 Responses to “16 Tips for Crafting a Powerful Postcard Campaign”

  1. Great recommendations here. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. How did it perform? Any results to share?

    • Greg, thanks for the good questions. If I had information about results, I would gladly have provided it. Unfortunately, it’s far too early in the campaign for us to know what the results will be. I may do an update post at the end of summer when the campaign is over.

  3. Hi. I would also be interested in the results. Thanks.

    • Dalya, thank you for your comment and interest. At the end of the summer, results should be available, and I’ll consider doing an update. I do just want to point out that this post was not meant to suggest that postcards are better than letters or phone or other tactics. The purpose of the post was to demonstrate how to properly implement a postcard campaign.

  4. Michael, thank you for highlighting the piece and providing your 16 points of analysis which I think will be used by many to review their direct mail pieces. As others said, I too would be interested in the results over the next few months. However, on the gut level I agree with you–it’s a home run!

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