Anatomy of a Control: World Wildlife Foundation

4 Nov

In its 4-year-old control, the World Wildlife Fund cleverly blends involvement devices and premiums with the popular calendar freemium to win over donors

Nothing speaks to a prospective donor or customer like an involvement device. Most people seem to find surveys, quizzes and free gift choices advertised both online and in direct mail irresistible.

Involvement devices work because they make consumers and constituents feel important, as if their choices or opinions matter and will make an impact on the company or organization they’re responding to. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) capitalizes on the involvement technique in its long-standing calendar control mailing.

Sent to prospective and previous members, the 9″ x 12″ package gets recipients involved from the beginning, with an offer to vote for next year’s calendar cover on the front of the outer. On the back of the outer, headline copy and photographs advertise the prospect’s choice between three WWF branded premiums—three lunch totes, two water bottles or a golf umbrella. “The more involvement you give your donor, the better your mailing will do,” says Antoinette Dack, director of membership marketing for the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

WWF has been mailing a calendar control package for more than 17 years, but the current incarnation, with multiple premium choices and a vote for the cover, has been mailing for four years and has improved response.

Both the premium and calendar cover choices operate with sticker involvement devices, which donors can peel and place on the reply form to indicate their preferences. Donors can find the premium stickers attached to the top right-hand side of the two-page letter. Stickers for the 2011 calendar cover image are located on one of the package’s buckslips.

An oversized reply form, perforated to the bottom edge of the letter, has enough room for all the donor’s gift information, plus stickers for the premium and calendar cover choices. WWF began testing the larger reply form about four years ago. “We needed more room for the placement of the stickers … and we tend to notice that the more white space there is and the bigger [donors] can write, the better,” Dack details.

Of the two buckslips enclosed in the mailing, one advertises the three premium choices and offers 10 environmental tips on the back, and a second slip features the stickers to vote for the 2011 calendar cover animal and statistics about how WWF allocates its funds on the reverse. Also enclosed are a BRE and the highlight of the package, a colorful 16-month calendar with the theme of wildlife babies. “We’ve tested various themes over the years, such as families, friends, together in nature and portraits, but our most successful one is the wildlife babies,” Dack says (Archive code #610-171878-0907B).

The first drop was sent in July to both acquisition and house names. There was a second drop sent to acquisitions in early September, and a final drop to remaining house names, including lapsed members, in October. Altogether WWF sent out more than 3 million calendar control packages. Dack says the organization chooses to send its calendar mailings beginning in July, to keep up with market trends. “You want to be in people’s mailboxes at the same time as all of the other nonprofit organizations send their calendars,” she explains. The calendar offers 16 months so members have the opportunity to use it as early as September.

During the rollout, there were several test panels at play. WWF tested a full-bleed image of the baby tiger on the front outer instead of an image of the calendar itself. It also tested sending two calendars to previous members and tested its typical plush stuffed animal premium choices against newer, more eco-friendly alternatives, such as the totes, umbrella and water bottles offered in this package.

In response to the flagging economy, WWF performed an interesting ask string test for previous donors. Dack says most nonprofits try to upgrade donors every year, with ask strings of 1, 1.25, 1.5 and 2 times above their previous gifts, but last spring, WWF began testing ask strings of .75, 1, 1.25 and 1.5. By making the first ask amount lower than last year’s gift, Dack says the average gift has lowered slightly, but response has increased and overall revenue has increased. She repeated the test again this year and got the same great results.

A bookend email campaign adds to the success of the mailing. Email messages featuring similar creative, a letter written from Dack, and images of the free calendar and premium choices were sent to about 40 percent of the direct mail recipients both before and after the calendar package hit. Dack says the email messages raised about $12,000 in gifts, but more importantly, direct mail response increased among those segments who received both mail and email messages.

She thinks the email messages give donors pause when they receive the direct mailing. “When [donors] get the mailing in their mailbox, they hold on to it and think, ‘Oh, I saw something about this,'” Dack illustrates. Sending emails in addition to direct mail, she says, also teaches donors to think multichannel and interact with the organization both in the mail and online.

WWF mails to about 1 million prospective, current and lapsed members each month. Those who become members are typically around 60 years old, 72 percent are female and most are highly educated. Mailings sent throughout the year, to both house and acquisition names, can range in format from more traditional #10s, to big packages with up-front premiums such as calendars, cards, gift wrap or notepads. This control mailing happens to be the first of the fiscal year and receives an average gift of $23 for house names and $18 for acquisition. Dack says this campaign is WWF’s strongest, due to its high response rate, and she says she’ll definitely be mailing the calendar package next year.

To keep the control strong, Dack plans to continue testing creative and lists. She is considering bumping the double calendar up from a test to a control feature. One thing is certain, that WWF members will be waiting for next year’s calendar, to see if their votes for the cover image won! “I think we give them a great product, with beautiful photos … I think it’s something people wait for in the mail every year,” Dack concludes.

Originally published in the November 2009 issue of Inside Direct Mail.

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