Posts tagged ‘direct mail’

April 19, 2013

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.

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December 28, 2012

Top Ten Posts of 2012, and Other Reflections

We’ve survived another “Doomsday”! Now, as 2012 draws to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back briefly before we march into the new year.

 

Champagne Toast by viking_79 via Flickr

Happy New Year!

 

For starters, let’s look at which of my posts have been the most read in the past year:

1. Survey Sounds Alarm Bell for Nonprofit Sector

2. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?

3. 10 Essential Tips to Protect Children from Real Monsters

4. Garth Brooks Sues Hospital for Return of $500,000 Gift

5. 8 Valuable Insights from a Major Donor

6. Overcoming the 9 Fundraising NOs (Bernard Ross)

7. Breaking News: Brain Scan Study Gives Fresh Insight into Charitable Giving Behavior

8. What NOT to Do in Your Email or Direct Mail Appeals

9. 20 Factoids about Planned Giving. Some May Surprise You.

10. Two Major Factors that Demotivate Donors

I invite you to read any posts you might have missed by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

I’m honored to know that I have readers from around the world. (I love the Internet!) While I appreciate all of my readers, I thought it would be interesting to look, beyond the United States, to see my top ten countries for readership:

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August 17, 2012

What NOT to Do in Your Email or Direct Mail Appeals

Writing an effective email or direct mail appeal is not as simple as writing a note to a friend. It’s a real challenge. Sometimes, organizations hit the mark. Sadly, this post is about one of those other times when an organization misses the mark.

A short time ago, I received the following email from a performing arts organization (which will remain nameless) that my wife and I care about and have supported in the past:

Subject: We’ve Missed You!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Rosen,

With just a few weeks to go before the end of the [ABC Organization’s] fiscal year, we are writing to ask for your support of the [Organization] at a time of increasingly good news. As you have undoubtedly read, the [Organization] is no longer in bankruptcy. We officially exited from financial reorganization on July 30, 2012. As we look to the future with confidence, we hope that you share our excitement about the beginning of [John Doe’s] tenure as [artistic director]. With [John’s] first season coinciding with the 100th anniversary of [John Smith’s] arrival in Philadelphia, the stars truly seem aligned!

We are grateful for your generous past support of [the Organization]. Several seasons ago, you helped us make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.

Today, we ask you to rejoin the thousands of Philadelphians and audiences worldwide in demonstrating your love for our magnificent [Organization] by making your gift. Now, more than ever, we need to have you with us!

“Donate Now” [button]

Sincerely,

Senior Director of Individual Giving”

While it was smart of the organization to send an email appeal to lapsed donors, there are several serious problems with the appeal that will negatively impact results. My wife and I are among those who have chosen not to renew our support.

By providing a detailed critique of the email appeal, I hope to help you avoid some of the same mistakes. When you do, you’ll get stronger results.

To begin, the email is not donor centered. I created a Worlde using the text of the email:

A Wordle is a graphical representation that makes words that are emphasized larger than the words used less often. In the Wordle I created, you can see that the following words are most emphasized:

  • organization
  • ask
  • now
  • support
  • Philadelphia

Of the five emphasized words, only “Philadelphia” reflects me and my community. The other four words are all organization focused.

Now, let’s look at the subject line: “We’ve Missed You!”

My wife has spent the past several months engaged in a fight with cancer. As a result, we have refocused our philanthropy. In addition, we haven’t been getting out as much as we once did. However, with my wife’s health returning to normal, we’re looking forward to the start of the new performing arts season.

When I saw the “We’ve Missed You!” subject line, I was excited because I saw the email was from an organization my wife and I have an interest in. I assumed the email would tell me about the upcoming season. And, as it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to attend performances, I thought the email just might also contain news of a special performance or ticket discount offer to entice us back.

Then, I opened the email. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the organization really did not miss my wife and me, it only missed our money. The email contained absolutely no information about the upcoming season and did not even include a link to the 2012-13 performance schedule.

I’ll give the organization credit for crafting a powerful subject line. Unfortunately, the subject line merely sets the reader up for a letdown.

The organization missed a great opportunity to leverage reciprocity and inspire gratitude. If the email had invited us to make plans to attend an upcoming performance, if the organization had supplied a link to its 2012-13 performance schedule and, especially if the organization had included some sort of promotional offer, it would have inspired a sense of appreciation.

By giving us something small, even just information, we would have been more likely to reciprocate with a donation.

Instead of beginning the email with something of interest to me (i.e.: upcoming performance information), the organization chose to write about the upcoming close of its fiscal year.

Guess what? Very few prospective donors care about an organization’s fiscal year. We care about our own fiscal year. The line used by the organization is quintessentially organization-focused and not the least bit donor-centered.

Rather than focusing on the end of its own timeline for giving, the organization would have been wiser to focus on the impending start of the new performance season. That would have been more donor-centered as it would have involved future engagement of the reader. As a result, the message would have been more inspirational and giving would have been more likely.

The next sentence in the email is just a bit strange and, perhaps, pointless. The sentence begins, “As you have undoubtedly read…” If I’ve “undoubtedly read” about the organization’s emergence from bankruptcy, why is the author telling me about it? If I had not read about it already, the phrase would make me feel foolish for not having read about it. If I had read about it but forgot, the phrase would make me feel silly for not having paid more attention.

Phrases like “As you have undoubtedly read” or “Of course” or “As you know” serve no possible useful purpose. Instead, they can actually be offensive to readers. When using such a phrase, you’re either about to waste the reader’s time or make them feel ill informed.

The email expresses confidence in the future now that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy. However, the email does not explain why the organization is confident. Many of the organization’s board members who led the way into bankruptcy continue to serve. While it’s certainly good news that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy, it’s unclear what changes have been made to ensure the organization’s strong management and long-term viability.

It’s not enough for the organization to say things are better. It needs to prove it. I’ve given them money before, but they still ended up in bankruptcy. How do I know it won’t happen again?

The email shares more good news by reminding readers that a new staff leader on the artistic side will be taking the helm in the new season. The email tells me this news is exciting and suggests, therefore, that I should be excited. However, I’m not told why I should be excited.

What follows is insider-speak about the new guy coming on board 100 years after a famous other guy came to town. Some supporters might not really know the historical figure or why he’s so important. I have no idea what “the stars truly seem aligned” means. It’s a mildly interesting historical coincidence. But, beyond that, so what? Will the new guy be doing some sort of tribute to the old guy? I don’t know, but I’d certainly like to know if that’s the case. If it’s not the case, why mention it at all?

The organization did do something correct in its email. It thanked my wife and me for our “generous past support.” That’s good. You want to thank past supporters before again asking them to give.

Unfortunately, this email takes things a bit too far. While my wife and I have been supportive, we certainly have not been generous enough to have “helped [the organization] make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.” I’ve heard of stretching a dollar, but this is just silly. By telling me I’ve made all things possible when I know I haven’t, the author really isn’t telling me anything at all.

Organizations should tell donors how their money was really spent. Or, organizations should tell donors what their money, when combined with gifts from other supporters, made possible.

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August 3, 2012

New Economic Data Suggest Continued Fundraising Challenges. What Can You Do?

Based on the latest economic data, nonprofit organizations in the USA should not expect significant growth in philanthropy through at least 2013. Fortunately, there are at least 10 things you can do to help your nonprofit weather the storm.

Historically, philanthropy in the USA has been approximately two percent of Gross Domestic Product. While this is not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship, the correlation is consistent. Therefore, with slow economic growth, we will likely see slow philanthropic growth.

In 2011, the US experienced an annual GDP growth rate of 1.8 percent. That same year, overall giving rose by 4.0 percent in current dollars or 0.9 percent in inflation adjusted dollars, according to Giving USA 2012.

In the first quarter of 2012, the US economy grew at a rate of 2.0 percent. In the second quarter of 2012, US economic growth slowed to just 1.5 percent. Most economists agree that a growth rate of 2.0 percent or less is insufficient to lower the unemployment rate, now at 8.2 percent. Looking ahead to 2013, the Federal Reserve forecasts a growth rate of 2.5 percent, still modest.

For the nonprofit sector, the GDP numbers mean the sector can expect philanthropy to grow in 2012 at a similar rate to 2011. Growth in 2013 will likely not be much better.

Despite my lack luster predictions for the nonprofit sector, I do believe there are at least 10 things that individual organizations can do to stimulate increased giving. If you implement just some of these ideas, your organization will likely achieve above average fundraising results:

1. Hug your donors. Ok, maybe not literally. But, you do need to let your donors know you love and appreciate them, now more than ever. Do you quickly acknowledge gifts? You should do so within 48 hours. Do you effectively thank donors? You should do so in at least seven different ways. Your thank you letters should be reviewed to ensure they are heartfelt, meaningful, and effective. Have board members call donors to thank them.

2. Tell donors about the impact of their gift. Donors want to know that their giving is making a difference. If their giving isn’t making a difference or they aren’t sure, they’re more likely to give elsewhere. So, report to your donors. Tell them what their giving is achieving and that their support is being used efficiently.

3. Start a new recognition program. One small nonprofit organization I know has started a new, special corporate giving club. CEOs of the corporate members are placed on an advisory board, receive special recognition, and are provided with networking opportunities. This new recognition program has already generated over $50,000 and is expected to generate far more. While enhancing existing recognition efforts is beneficial, starting a new recognition program can yield significant results.

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September 23, 2011

Can Direct Mail Secure Impressive Planned Gifts?

I’m about to tell you how you might generate a $137,000 average gift in a direct mail campaign. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? And, I’m not talking about getting a lot of $25 donors and one, lucky-to-get, $1 million donation. Instead, I’m going to share with you what the Natural Resources Defense Council did to achieve a real six-figure average gift through direct mail.

The NRDC achieved its remarkable result by using direct mail to secure planned gifts, specifically charitable bequest commitments. While your results may differ, the fact is you, too, can reap massive rewards by using direct mail for planned giving.

Photo by Michael J. Rosen

Many nonprofit organizations either think that one cannot use direct mail to solicit planned gifts successfully or that doing so is somehow inappropriate. That’s assuming they give it any thought at all. But, I’m reminded of a great quote from Philip J. Murphy, of Zimmerman Lehman, that I used in my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing: “Get wild with planned giving: Think of it as fundraising!” Murphy was saying that planned giving is just like annual giving and capital campaigns, it’s fundraising; and, the same rules apply. So, if you can use direct mail for an annual fund or capital campaign appeal, of course you can use it for planned giving.

Just like with any other type of campaign, face-to-face is the absolute best way to secure a planned gift. However, what happens when you have far more planned giving prospects than you do people to go and see the prospects? That was exactly the dilemma faced by the NRDC.

With a gift planning staff of one director, two officers, and one assistant, the NRDC did not have the staff resources to see the 50,000 planned giving prospects identified among its 1.3 million supporters. So, the best prospects were assigned to staff and the tens of thousands of others were put into the direct mail effort. The first half of the direct mail campaign yielded 87 bequest commitments with 62 donors willing to reveal the amount of their commitments which totaled $8.5 million, for an average of $137,000. In addition, the NRDC secured an additional $330,000 from a challenge grant supporter.

You can read about the NRDC campaign in an article I wrote for Advancing Philanthropy, the magazine of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The article was published this month and, with the very kind permission of AFP, you can download the article free of charge here: “Securing Planned Gifts with Direct Mail”.

If you would like to see all of the elements of the NRDC direct mail package, you can find it here.

The NRDC certainly treats planned giving like fundraising. They use face-to-face where they can. Then, rather than ignoring the remaining 50,000 prospects, they’ve used direct mail to broadcast the importance of planned gifts to the organization and to solicit those gifts.

People who requested more information or who made a commitment were carefully contacted by staff. Donors will continue to be cultivated through the NRDC’s legacy society and, when appropriate, staff will talk with bequest donors about other giving opportunities that might effectively meet the needs of donors while allowing them to further support the cause. As a result, the NRDC has dozens of happy, new planned gift donors. The NRDC will also have millions of dollars more with which to defend our natural resources. Money it otherwise would not have had.

If you want more planned gifts for your organization, ask more people. Direct mail can help you do that, tastefully and successfully.

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

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