The government is talking $TRILLIONs . . . what does today’s economic reality mean for your direct mail plans?
Some folks are business as usual, others are running for the hills and yet others are launching new campaigns and programs into this challenging season. As others
have answered -- much of this is cyclical.
However, if it were just cyclical, nobody would be talking about $TRILLION in relief dollars to stabilize the current economic reality.
All that being said, direct mail at this time is challenging and has been for a number of months, for both acquisition and renewal – what are the alternatives?
Donors are lapsing faster than ever, so we all need new donors -- if we don't do acquisition, it may save us some expense money today, but hurts big-time in the long-run.
You could also say that if other organizations are cutting back on acquisition there remains an opening -- an opportunity -- for those who will proceed with more aggressive plans.
Individual organizations may be able to turn the current situation into a cry for urgent appeals. Especially well positioned would be those that cater to health,
social services, and homeless and hungry and those that serve the under-served.
To make a long story short (too late, I know) another possible silver lining to the current situation on certain organizations may be the fact that if individuals that are able to join or donate to
your cause/appeal now, maybe better positioned for longer-term performance, since they ostensibly may have the need to make a more "thought-out" to give and were less impulsive with their giving and
may stick around longer.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat….
Regular and ongoing reevaluation of all
aspects of your program be it, copy, design, timing, list selection, house file segmentation, etc. must be at the core of internal processes or collaborative processes with your agency
Annual or bi-annual file and creative audits as well ongoing results analysis must be integral part
of operations to move programs to their “next level."
We all get bogged-down in day-to-day tasks and proofs, moving copy through endless editorial review processes, etc….SO, its easy just to push things
PAUSE – take a breath (make some time for just
thinking). Have a “McDonald’s or Starbucks moment” – great ideas come in strange places. The grind is NOT kind to creative/analytical thinking.
By periodically “off-site-ing” and looking at
ALL the mail pieces sent to donors over the course of the year (along with the results), you will be amazed at the things that went by. These regular creative audits allow you and your team and
agency partners to take the time (don’t rush it) to see if all the strategies you started the year with were correctly executed and if the performed as expected. What tests were winners and what
tests were embarrassing?
Remember you are not writing for you, your
President or Chair of the Board. Clarity and simplicity are key. Would your mother or grandmother be able to read, understand and more importantly take clear action based on your
Examine graphics, look at fonts
(styles/sizes), copy letter length, premium vs. non-premium mix, etc.
Why do you ask…?
The future of direct response fundraising cannot
be driven around the all-too-common concept of . . . its October or April, its time for a mailing or we need to do the “filling in the blank” mailing again “just like last year.” Successful programs
are mindful of the “why” and the “who” and the intended “engagement for impact” before the copywriter “puts pen to paper.”
You don’t NEED money
You are offering an opportunity to change the world
You can join with others to end/fix/solve ______________
Nobody really cares that it is the end of your fiscal year
Mini-Campaigns offer a chance to be part of something important
It’s not all about me…
Organizations and their communications
messaging must be compelling and engaging and above all must be flexible and “donor-focused” in approach to meet individuals where they are and not force individuals to meet the organization where it
is. Multiple tracks of touch-points and communications strategies must be implemented to maximize donor-engagement with the mission and its outcomes.
Being “donor-focused” removes
institutional thinking from the donor relationship-enhancing communication. Your organization simply becomes a conduit – a facilitator – for what the donor or prospect already wanted to do. You just
gave them an opportunity to make it happen.
In most cases, your organization faces competition with other NPOs within your mission circles, let alone other
categories. Your communications MUST demonstrate your organization's “worthiness of support” and “best in class-ness” well beyond, “we’ve
been doing xxx for over xxx years.”
Letters that use huge numbers exclusively to show how great a task you have to undertake do so at their own peril. Avoid the danger of the “drop in the
ocean” scenario. I read a recent quote as an excellent example --
it suggested that rather than asking for a gift of $25 to combat global warming, make sure that your language enables donors gifts to be meaningful. Why not make that $25 gift help fund a particular
study or help mobilize grass-roots efforts, etc. Tying gifts to results is an absolute necessity.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, AND THANK
Make the most of donor newsletters. Don’t
send an institutional piece that is already being printed by your communications or PR team and send it to donors. Donor desires for results demand a specific donor stewardship publication that
serves as yet another thank you for their support. It is a report back to donors on results (results that are possible thanks to donor
gifts). It engages donors in your successes. The most effective newsletters (that improve donor-engagement and increase income) are usually short, timely, and NOT glossy
Communication style must feel as if you
know your donors. Remember, you are writing to ONE person at a time – NOT hundreds of thousands or more.
Use data you have in your database to truly
personalize your appeals far beyond “Dear Ms. Sally Samplename,”
“Direct Mail” is NOT direct mail – it IS part of an integrated direct response program that includes mail, phone, online, email, space, broadcast, txt, online communities et al and in order to maximize an organization's reach use of all practicable media is
Coordinating message and delivering consistency of brand across all channels instills a
higher sense of professionalism and seriousness to your donor and prospect constituencies.
Don’t worry about
online or other channel outreach cannibalizing your mail efforts. The end result is far more important – more dollars, more donors, and better-engaged
In the age of online communities/email/text messaging, don’t forget the power of telemarketing, national and regional space ads (including online), and
today’s voice messaging tools to significantly boost direct response outreach results and participation rates.
Use media intelligently
– some messages work better than others for certain efforts and channels. When using multiple channels in an integrated outreach effort, be sure that the message rings true and is authentic in
demonstrating the impact of your mission.
Direct Response is NOT a necessary evil or ugly stepchild
response is NOT the ugly stepchild of a major giving, planned gift, events, foundations/corporate giving programs or a necessary evil, but part of a comprehensive program that in order to work well,
all areas must work together to breakdown the walls (real or imagined) an avoid the silo mentality of “my donor not yours.”
If done properly the direct
response/annual fund segment of the donor file serves as a feeder for higher levels of cultivation such as major gifts, planned gifts, volunteer leadership, and events. Often unjustly dismissed,
lower donor repeat givers are fantastic planned giving prospects.
Many organizations need more than a few
major donors and foundations to keep operating and effect impactful change – direct response can serve as the operational backbone of funding for many organizations.
The annual fund/direct response team should be “at the table” with MG/PG/Events people who are typically “one-to-one” relationship-oriented and don’t
necessarily have the marketing background the DMers do and the two orientations can work well together.
Consider teaming with MG/PG departments to
provide ALL direct response support for their operations – it educates your DR team as to what else is going on within development and it may also make it possible for you to keep charge of all
fundraising mail calendars to ensure unity of messaging.
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