direct mail, Economics, Education, Fundraising

What It Takes To Raise A Buck

The Dream Catcher: the ultimate gift.

It may be a function of age, but we receive a fair share of fundraising direct mail. Occasionally we get kits that amaze us for their content, with the underlying question, how can this possibly make money?

St. Joseph’s Indian School uses a donor acquisition package that pushes the boundaries, but based on their frequent use, this kit makes money. But it still amazes.

A personalized lift note accompanies the letter.

The key to powerful direct mail is rolled up in this slogan: List-Offer-Format-Copy. You can figure it out. But a subset of “Format” is fundamental to understanding good design: Size-Cards-Labels-Diecuts-Personalization.

Take a look at St. Joe’s and how they go beyond the formula.

The 9×9-1/2 Flat kit is hard to ignore.

The envelope is 9×9-1/2. No wait, it’s not an envelope. It’s more like a bag, a catch all, and it’s a half inch thick. Not normal! Right away, we are talking a Flat, not a letter. Odds are it weighs more than 3.3 ounces, so no kidding, this is a small trunk in the donor’s mailbox. Despite its bulkiness, it is still machinable, but I’ll bet the USPS would love to be rid of this mini-parcel bouncing through their multi-million dollar sorters. Remember, in direct mail, size counts.

The calendar is one of 8 personalized pieces.

The perfed donor form highlights what your donation will buy.

Many successful kits provide a card. It’s personalized, perhaps laminated or plasticized, embossed, and maybe delivered in pairs. Very common in retail, insurance, service and association mailings, cards convey belonging and entitlement. While St. Joe’s doesn’t have a card per se, they do include personalized memorabilia like calendar cards, and gift certificates.

27 address stickers, enough for every utensil in the kitchen drawer.

Do we have enough address labels? Maybe, maybe not. Until you have labeled all your electronic gear, computers, cell phones, 14 golf clubs, CDs, Vinyl, USBs, chargers, staplers, umbrellas, Christmas cards, 3-hole punch and entire library of Clive Cussler books on loan, you aren’t done. And beside labels, anything that is pressure sensitive, like Post-it notes, velcro and magnets counts as an involvement device that draws your reader in a tactile way to your mailing. St. Joe’s goes over the top to provide stickers and labels for the donor, their children and the next door neighbor’s cat.

Mood aubergine: more labels for every occasion.

Really a technical obsession for printers and origami artists, the die-cut is a subtle paper carving that uses perforations, kiss-cuts, windows and trimming to create a 3-dimensional or engineered aspect to your kit. The recipient will work those die-cuts intuitively, without thinking, to unfold and self administer a little presentation for their personal viewing. Again die-cuts precipitate movement and finger work, which is involving your reader.

The Post-it note doubles down on the ask.

St. Joe’s knows how to attract the eye, and that starts with calling out to the reader repeatedly. 8 times in fact. Envelope, letter, donor form, certificates, address labels, stickers, calendar, lift note…no matter your persuasion, it is hard to casually throw out a piece of paper that has your name on it.

I offer an additional element that may trump the 5 attributes above–

A 24-page calendar with original art makes this kit indispensible.

Above and beyond the formula I gave you, the appeal of the St. Joe’s piece is that you just can’t throw it out. Why? Because in addition to all of the features, the envelope is packed with gifts, and useful items: three shrunk-wrapped greeting cards, a note pad, a 24-page calendar with art, the stickers or course, and the piece de resistance: the Dream Catcher. Not to mention the 3 penny stamps affixed to the reply envelope. Almost impossible to throw in the bin…just can’t do it. Arrrgh!

So there you have a fully loaded kit.   But can it pay for itself?

The first rule of fundraising: donors don’t come free. So management knows they must develop their donor files, which is what this kit is for.

The note pad’s backer explains the mission and prayer of the Lakota community.

It’s a bit of a guess, but based on a nickel a page, this kit probably cost around $2.50 to print and assemble, plus the Dream Catcher…, maybe $3.00. Postage will be around 50-55 cents, based on a 6.4 ounce kit, automation rate, non profit.  Add in the lists, freight and data processing and it has to be $4.00 a kit.

Wow!  “Who has that kind of money?” fret the accountants, and by the way, a lot of donors, too.

But here’s the thing, because of its impact, its stopping power, this piece could have a 5-8% response rate.  Let’s say 7%.

Three tastefully designed greeting cards, individually wrapped, are an extra push for donation.

Then $4.00/7% = $57.00 cost per response.  And what is the average gift? They are asking between $8-$70.  Again say it’s $30.  So the net cost is $27 to get a new donor.  That donor will have a longstanding, profitable relationship with St. Joe’s and looking at the financial statement, there is about a 10% chance that the donor may make a final bequest in their will to the organization.

Overall, St. Joe’s has a fundraising efficiency of about 31%, according to their financial statement. 31 cents to raise a dollar.

This may seem higher than some of the nation’s largest, more well known non-profits.  But keep in mind that those have strong, pervasive brands, high impact causes like hurricanes and disease, and oodles of corporate in-kind support, too.

Thanks for reading!  Please share!


direct mail, Marketing

Victoria, Golf and Testing

Golf 2011-11-734

Every magazine’s sales tool: the “blow-in” card.

The beauty of direct mail is that you can test to find out what works.

So that is why Victoria’s Secret and Golf Magazine enjoy your attention today.

Victorias 2011-11-735

“Pretty” is nice, but in direct mail it’s the offer that counts.

Opening the December issue of Golf Magazine, 4 different blow-in cards fluttered onto the kitchen table.

Why 4?   Because there are a number of triggers to test on the reader.

Golf 2014-11-726

This card focuses on the discount off regular price.

Golf 2014-11-728

The FREE gift is the sales incentive here.

Golf 2014-11-729

Buy one, get one free for a friend, plus a FREE gift.

As it turns out three of the cards have identical offers, but each with a different deal. Or look. One will feature the discount off the cover price. Two will bathe the reader in yellow ink, but one of those is really pushing the FREE gift–a really cool Golf Distance Finder, with “BEST DEAL!” screaming to check the top box. The fourth card is a gift sub card, making a two-for-one deal, plus a very classy Free Gear Bag.

Each card is key-coded to track which works best. Kudos to the subscription manager who recognizes that one deal does not suit all people.

Based on response, you can bet they will tweak the next set of cards, but odds are, they won’t reduce the count: four.

Now turn to Victoria’s Secret, where we get two mailers within the same week, each taking pre-eminent positioning at the kitchen table during lunch.

Victorias 2014-11-733

The mission of these cards is to drive traffic. At least one will snag the reader.

May I note that the “staff” over at Victoria’s don’t probably enjoy lunch?

Fortunately, they do get full, heated-room privileges, which accounts for their restive, but somewhat hungered composure.

The two mailings are spectacular for their origami and construction. Best of all, each mailer contains 4 different mini-cards with specific deals.

Each card’s mission is to entice the shopper to get to the store.
If the Free panty doesn’t do it, the Free Tote Bag will.

Victoris Secret 2014-11677

The advantage of personal direct mail– the ability to track and analyze.

The production on these pieces is clever. One is a 10-page booklet, with 4 mini-cards attached to one page. The back of each card has a live bar code on it. Meaning they can track response to the mailing, the offer, and yup, to the shopper too.  Yikes!

Victoris Secret 2014-11676

Four cards in a 10-page mailing: unstoppable!

The cards themselves are 24 mil, meaning for you lay folks, thick enough to jimmy a hotel lock.

But they are small, demanding less space in your wallet or purse.

I recall as a small youngster having a wad of direct mail coupons which I pretended were dollar bills….kept them in my plastic wallet. I liked flashing “money” when shopping with my mother. I don’t think she would have gone for the Victoria’s cards so much.

Testing through direct mail offers the luxury of control: distribution, offer, targeting and tracking.   When done well, marketers can get the most for their dollar spent.  That means they learn to send you things you like, and don’t send you things that turn you off.

Sharing testing strategies across different media, like mail and magazines is also productive, and enhances perspective.

Gee Dad

“Gee Dad, it looks better over here!”

So I wonder, could we test the FREE Golf Distance Finder with Victoria’s Secret?


Thanks for reading this far!   I hope your mail box provides as much enjoyment as does mine!