Archive Report: Fundraising

While many other sectors have cut down on their mail volume, fundraising has stuck with its direct mail workhorse, even while most fundraisers also have bumped up their usage of email and social media marketing efforts. Looking at the Who’s Mailing What! Archive, fundraising mail has grown in the overall mailstream by 18.3 percent so far in 2009 (data is recorded up until the end of July) compared to 2008 and a whopping 33.5 percent compared to 2007. Now, nearly 20 percent of the mailstream is dominated by fundraisers. Wow.

Not surprisingly, many of these efforts are controls that must continue to work for these nonprofits. So far in 2009, 34.3 percent of fundraising mail are controls (and 86 percent of those controls are Grand Controls, having been in the mail for three or more years). But that percentage is still down from the last couple of years (by 19 percent from 2008, actually), which shows that fundraising may still be mailing at a relatively high rate, but they’re adapting with the times by increasingly going with more relevant messaging and sometimes slimmer packages.

Planned Parenthood exhibited how current its current direct mail is by tackling the health care debate in its latest #10 (Archive code #601-171868-0907). The teaser reads, “Without affordable access, ‘choice’ is not a choice at all.” Inside the skinny, two-component package (letter, with reply form perfed to the top, and BRE only), no time is wasted: The letter leads with, “Without access to affordable reproductive healthy care — the right to choose is meaningless.” Send to a lapsed member, it personalizes the letter by taking into account that the prospect is young and uses several lines of copy her generation may relate to, such as “This is a fight we must win for today’s generation of women and young people.”

Speaking of the health care debate, AARP also employs a strong teaser on its #10 outer: “Don’t be the missing piece” (Archive code 601-171581-0907). Unlike the Planned Parenthood piece, however, AARP encloses several components, including a three-page letter, three petitions, reply form, brochure and BRE. The theme is built around ensuring retirement security and acknowledges the many difficulties today’s seniors are having with health care coverage, dwindling savings and getting pushed out of the labor market.

As far as teasers go, does it get much better than Amnesty International’s “Would you write nine words to save a life?” The only words on the 6″ x 9″ envelope, the mailer is an updated Grand Control — for 20 years now! — with a slimmed-down letter and without labels (Archive code #601-171583-0907C). The letter takes those nine words and tells the brief story of Constantino, who was held for years with his hands and feet tied, before then presenting the reader with two new “prisoners of conscience” who need “immediate help.”

The end of the letter again mentions those nine words: “And with nine simple words from our committed supporters, we’ve helped win the freedom of over 45,000 prisoners.” Most prospects who get that far may have trouble not donating, and then filling out the famous blank card with the Amnesty logo that rides in the package.

Again, dealing with a timely issue in the teaser, International Campaign for Tibet says this on its #10 outer: “The true life case of cyber-espionage: Ghostnet, Tibet, and China” (Archive code #601-476865-0907). Running the campaign like a sensational news story, the letter and even reply card refer to this “cyber-espionage” story that many prospective donors may become fascinated by. The reply form, for example, does away with the standard “membership renewal” title and instead simply bolds and increases the type size of the first part of this sentence: “I understand rigorous security is expensive, but critical when cyber-espionage like GhostNet can lead to repression, imprisonment, and even death for people in Tibet.”

Lastly, clearly some donors simply want to be recognized as well as shown the progress of the mission they’ve contributed to. The 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ self-mailer from Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge, Calif., does both very well in its dual foldout effort (Archive code #602-717767-0907). Featuring pictures of contributors at a recent benefit for the arts center, as well as spotlights on four very generous donors alongside several small testimonials from other donors, underscores the community feeling of the project. A “message from the president,” with her pleasant smile next to the message, furthers the sense of community and progress. Coupling this with multiple, dazzling four-color sketches of the arts center creates excitement and anticipation for the project .