Tag Archives: fundraising

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.

The Plain-Jane Voucher Gets a Makeover

2 Nov

American Craft Council’s voucher membership mailing features creative and strategic enhancements

Vouchers have been in favor with publishers and fundraisers for years because they are not as expensive as larger 6˝ x 9˝ or 9˝ x 12˝ packages—and they still capture good response rates. The voucher is bare-bones by definition, consisting of a one-page description of benefits and a reply device, usually carried in a #10 outer.

When American Craft Council, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to fostering an environment in which craft is understood and valued, partnered with Sage Communications to redesign its direct mail package, the Westborough, Mass.-based direct marketing firm used the voucher strategy but added a few bells and whistles to get a big lift in response.

The voucher that Anne and Josef Kottler, founding partners of Sage Communications, came up with is not your typical plain-Jane effort. The Kottlers refer to their format as an enhanced voucher or voucher-plus package because it includes a brochure and insert and contains personalized messaging and community-based content that you would not find in a regular voucher.

“We now call it an enhanced voucher or voucher-plus package, in that … we can enhance response by adding the right combination of content-related messages. All the publishers would love to have more content in the presentation as long as it’s cost-effective, and in this particular case, we’ve shown it can be,” Mr. Kottler shares.

Instead of a stark-white, business-looking outer, the package arrives in a #10 with a full-bleed, black-and-white photograph of a potter’s hands on the front. The hands are open, and there is a window in the middle of the envelope with a personalized, temporary membership card showing through that looks like it’s being cupped by the hands. The image really stands out in the mail; it is a piece of creative that Sage Communications carried over from one of American Craft Council’s previous packages. “Essentially, when you get the envelope it’s like we’re handing you this membership card,” Mr. Kottler says.

On the reverse side of the envelope are the address blocks, along with the copy, “Charter Invitation Please respond within 10 days,” and a “Do Not Bend” stamp. Inside are a voucher page with content on both sides, a colorful brochure, an insert and a postage-paid BRE (Archive code #202-713749-0907).

The focal point of the package is the double-sided voucher. The front, main page of the voucher includes a list of member benefits and a quick, personalized message written to the recipient, explaining why she’s been chosen for membership and that she’ll receive 50 percent off the regular price. The temporary membership card is perforated at the top of the page, and the reply form is perforated onto the bottom. While Mr. Kottler says the magazine is the biggest value to prospective members, the temporary membership card works well as an involvement device and helps stoke interest in the membership itself. “The temporary card suggests, ‘You’re a member now, but to be a permanent member, you have to send in your money,’” he remarks.

The reverse side of the voucher features the headline “Join Our Community of Artists and Craft Masters” and reveals how the Kottlers added a community feel to the voucher package. “A magazine and its readers and writers are part of a community that shares an enthusiasm and a common interest for a subject matter … The back of this form refers to and invites you to join our community of artists and crafters and then shows you five artists who have appeared in the magazine, with a brief biography and then an actual sample of one of the pieces of their work,” Mr. Kottler says. The council’s mission statement also appears in a box at the bottom of this page.

One of the package’s highlights is the brochure, a four-color, high-quality piece that reproduces sample covers of the recently redesigned magazine and shows beautiful photographs of crafts featured in the publication. There is also copy on the brochure detailing what readers will learn from the magazine. “Time and time again, we’ve noticed and we’ve learned at Sage Communications that including a nice little brochure with a voucher package has lifted response,” Mrs. Kottler comments. She says the brochure highlights the magazine’s new design and its content without adding much to the overall cost of the mail package. “This piece is really quite simple but delivers a sense of elegance that the magazine delivers,” Mr. Kottler adds.

The final element in the package is a small, yellow insert reiterating the offer. Mr. Kottler says such an insert has shown a steady lift in response when tested in isolation in similar voucher packages.

Mailed in the summer of 2008 and winter of 2009, this package was sent a third time in July 2009 and remains the control for the American Craft Council. It is an acquisition-only package sent to prospects who have expressed interest through events or other subscriptions in crafts and art appreciation, Mr. Kottler says.

The enhanced voucher package provided a lift over the previous packages the council had been mailing. With the enhanced voucher, the gross response (the percentage of people who responded to the mailing) and net response (the percentage of people who responded to the mailing and also paid) both almost doubled.

Another benefit of the enhanced voucher package is the smaller gap between the gross response and net response, which Mr. Kottler attributes to the package’s hard offer. “We advised that we stay with the hard offer because it’s the type of thing that works better than having to send out sample magazines,” Mr. Kottler reveals. He says that around 70 percent to 80 percent of people provided cash with order, and as a result, the client incurred many savings down the road with no free issues and less “bill me later” invoices to send.

Sage Communications and American Craft Council currently are working together, with ProCirc, a Miami-based circulation vendor, to determine plans for next year’s mailing. Both Anne and Josef Kottler are pleased with the control but hope there will be some testing in the works. “We hope to test more ideas, such as email capture or new creative, in the next mailing cycle,” Mrs. Kottler says. “This package has worked extremely well for them, but there’s always new things to test,” Mr. Kottler adds.

Idea In Action: An Offer by a Different Name
In an acquisition mailing designed for American Craft Council, Sage Communications dusted off an ever clever way to refer to the offer. Instead of just a plain, old membership, Anne and Josef Kottler, founding partners, call the offer a “Charter Membership Invitation.” From testing in their other publication and nonprofit clients’ mailings, the Kottlers have found success with the word “charter.” “We liked the use of the word ‘charter’ … We’ve had a lot of luck with that,” Mr. Kottler says. He also felt “charter” was a good word for referring to the first year of membership.

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

A Roundup of Political Fundraising Tactics

18 May

Marketers and fundraisers still are talking about all of the new ways that the Obama campaign used online channels to net new, young constituents. While e-mail and Web 2.0 methods are valid avenues to pursue, direct mail remains an integral channel, with response rates that are much higher than those of e-mail.

Looking back through the 2008 election mail, any marketer can learn from the old and new direct mail tactics that raked in millions of dollars for candidates of both parties.

Something New
One new tactic in campaign mail last year was a brochure enclosed in many of the Obama for America acquisition mailings, featuring lengthy excerpts from the candidate’s speeches on varied topics. The “In His Own Words” insert was a good way to add pizazz to an otherwise standard #10 letter appeal, especially for a candidate known for his rhetorical command. The brochures also show images of Obama interacting with his constituency (Archive code #608-710235-0708). It is easy to imagine this method enhancing a plain letter package in another sector, with an added buckslip featuring a photograph and comments from a company CEO or customer service representative.

Another fresh approach in the political fundraising direct mailstream from the Obama for America organization was an effort sent in September, most likely to previous donors, with two letters: one from Barack Obama and a second from Joe Biden. Both candidates names appear on the upper left-hand corner of the outer, and upon opening the mailing, the Biden letter is folded on top of the Obama letter, with both letterheads showing their names. Each letter has its own voice and makes a call to action to donate using the enclosed reply, which has a picture of the two candidates together (Archive code #608-710235-0810D).

A Picture’s Worth … Another Donation?
John McCain 2008 used one of the best-tested methods in political fundraising mail—sending a 9˝ x 12˝ outer marked “Do Not Bend Photo Enclosed,” with a glossy, signed 8½˝ x 11˝ photograph of the candidate and his wife as a thank-you to a recent donor. Sent in March, the mailing also includes a thank-you letter and a “Photo Receipt Confirmation,” which allowed the donor to give again and even request another photograph if hers was delivered damaged (Archive code# 608-709966-0803A). This format suggests to other fundraisers and marketers that every customer touch, even a thank-you, should still include a call to action.

The Obama for America campaign used a similar approach in July 2007, sending a smaller photograph as a freemium in an acquisition mailing. The 4˝ x 7˝ photograph features Obama at a podium announcing his run for the presidency. It is signed and features a quote from his remarks that day. However, on the letter and reply form, the mailing makes a foolish mistake, as there is no mention of the photograph to stoke donor reciprocity (Archive code #608-710235-0704B).

Electoral Map Inserts

Efforts featuring electoral maps popped up in the mail last year, a nod to the plethora of interactive electoral and polling maps available online and shown on many network news updates. One strong effort sent in June by the John McCain 2008 organization arrived in a clear polybag, with a letter showing through the front addressed side and an electoral map showing through the back. The letter says, “As you can see from the enclosed Electoral Map, there are 23 states that are up-for-grabs,” and continues to ask for support. The polybag outer is a great choice, giving the prospect a glimpse at the letter or map even before opening the package (Archive code #608-709966-0806B).

An Obama for America effort sent in October targeted an in-home
date of 14 days prior to the election, with the copy, “[Britt Brouse], everything comes down to the next 14 days,” showing through a front window. The outer is bright purple, and inside there’s a “Countdown to November 4th” full-color insert, showing an electoral map and tallying the polls in every toss-up state. There’s also a handwritten sticky note attached to the map with a URL and telephone number for instant donations. Sent so close to Election Day, the theme of this mailing was urgency, and even the BRE is stamped with a red “RUSH” (Archive code #608-710235-0810A).

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, February 2009)

Mail Order Cause Marketing

18 May

Read for the Cure hits prospects in the heart, with part of its subscription proceeds going to charity

In this tough economy, when consumers are cutting back on everyday niceties like dry cleaning, baby sitters, the beauty salon and gym memberships, a consumer magazine subscription can be a tough sell. But when you combine that offering with a cause, and do so at a very low price point, you may have better luck reaching that prospect’s heart and wallet.

In December, Read for the Cure, a for-profit agency owned and operated by Meredith Corp., mailed its first major rollout, offering prospects more than 100 magazine subscriptions to choose from—all at a flat rate of $10. The best part is, 10 percent of the subscription proceeds are donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leading nonprofit organization working to end breast cancer (Archive code #280-175381-0901).

Other major publishers, like Time Inc. and Hearst, already have branches of their organizations that run agencies, points out Jon Macarthy, consumer marketing director for Meredith. “We did it because we already had extensive ties with Komen foundation—they were the natural partner to go to for this,” he says.

Ironically, despite so many prospects feeling the financial pinch, now can be a good time to reach them. “Particularly in the down economic times, people want a way to give to the causes that they want to, and if there’s a way to do it through purchases that they might make anyway, that just enhances the experience and makes it easier for them,” Macarthy says.

Read for the Cure performed months of testing to arrive at December’s control format, a pink 6˝ x 11˝ package with a two-page letter, lift note, stickers and address labels, four-color insert, sheet of magazine stamps to select titles, fast 100 sweepstakes to win a cookbook premium, reply card, and BRE. “This campaign had a full plate of testing, including versions of the control with and without various key components to determine their value,” Macarthy says. “Each [element] we test with or without, and if it pays for itself in response, we leave it in there,” he adds.

To be sure the package was performing at its best, he also tested different package sizes, outers, letters, which magazines were featured and the offer itself. “Based on testing [pricing], we’ve been able to move up how many magazines someone takes with every order incrementally … Now most people are taking well over two magazines on average,” he shares.

One of the challenges designing the package was finding the right mix between a publishing effort and a fundraising appeal. In some ways, the package uses some of the formulas of a Publisher’s Clearing House mailing, with stickers, stamps and even a sweepstakes. “Certainly, we took some learning that we got from Publisher’s Clearing House because they’ve been at that a long time, and they certainly know what they’re doing,” Macarthy notes. “We use the rose stickers [and address labels], which is very common in fundraising, so we borrowed from that world … and then added to that the kind of ease on the order card and the walking people through that we do on our own direct mail for our own titles. So we’ve been able to kind of mix some of the best practices from a number of areas,” Macarthy comments.

The effort mailed mostly to females who were likely to be both donors and readers from Meredith’s database of subscribers and outside lists. “We made extensive use of our own database because Meredith’s database tends to be heavily driven to women and homeowner women, and this is a cause that rings true for them,” he says.

In offering a slew of popular titles, the purpose of the mailing was not to renew readers but to open people up to new titles to benefit the participating publishers. So far the results have been very positive. “Our results as far as overall order response are meeting our projections and what we had hoped for to make it a worthwhile venture for both our publishers, for Komen and ourselves,” Macarthy reveals.

He plans to mail the package in June and December and, depending on results, may increase the frequency and volume incrementally. “We’re still working on what we might test going out, but each mailing will have some other tweak or some idea just to keep the package fresh,” he explains.

A big goal for this year is to increase online activity for this campaign at the http://www.myreadforthecure.com site where prospects can place subscription orders as well. The URL was featured on some of the mailing segments, but Macarthy hopes to drive even more orders through the site. “We would love to get a bigger presence there and will make some efforts to have the website be more of a destination site in and of itself, independent of the mailings, but the mailings will also continue to tie to the website,” he concludes.

  • An Emotional Letter Loses: In its recent mailing, Read for the Cure tested two letters, one with a very emotional and personal approach and one with a more straightforward sales pitch. According to Jon Macarthy, consumer marketing director for Meredith Corp., the emotional letter lost. The emotional letter grabbed the reader from the beginning with, “Her eyes red from crying …” and detailed a woman’s familiarity with the pain of those suffering from cancer. Meanwhile, the winner began with this pitch: “You can help put an end to breast cancer by indulging in one of your favorite pastimes.” This just proves that every piece of the package needs to be tested.

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, April 2009)