Hey — how’d you like to know an easy way to increase the cost of your direct mail fundraising — decreasing response at the same time?
Here’s how: Add a brochure to the package. It works like magic to make things worse!
Brochures almost always depress response in direct mail. (There are, no doubt, exceptions to this. But they are rare. I’ve never seen a brochure improve results. Or even stay even with a non-brochure mailing.)
Here’s a fairly typical brochure. It was in a mailing from The International Rescue Committee. It’s a good example of why brochures do exactly opposite of what we intend for them.
- Brochures aren’t personal. Direct mail fundraising is all about make a person-to-person connection. Think about it: Would you consider a stranger who hands you a brochure someone likely to become a friend?
- Brochures may be distracting. Brochures have color and photos. That can draw donors away from the active ingredients you’d rather they pay attention to, such as the reply device.
- Brochures aren’t about donors. Theoretically, they could be, but they never are. Brochures are created out of the need to puff up and explain organizations. This brochure is a prime example. It’s all about the achievements of the organization — we vaccinated, we trained, we gave, we created, we assisted, we counseled. The only you statement sneaks in on the back panel: Donations from humanitarians like you allow us to… That’s bad fundraising.
If you want to improve your results, test your package with no brochure. Most likely, your numbers will improve. (And you’ll lower the cost too!) I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but I’ve never seen a brochure that improved direct mail response.
Here’s the rest of that brochure, in case you’d like to see an organizational brag-fest (click to enlarge):
I just hit the jackpot.
You’re looking at it: Five bankers boxes packed full of direct mail fundraising appeals.
I got it from Uncle Maynard. It took me nearly three years to persuade him that I really was interested in looking at the mail he was so reluctant to throw out. (Reluctance to throw stuff away is a pretty common trait for people of Uncle Maynard’s generation.)
For a while, he’d show me two or three pieces, usually things he thought interesting or strange.
Then he started bringing me grocery bags full of mail. I kept thanking and praising him for his generous contribution to my education. He was dubious. I kept reminding him I’d love to see it.
Then, a few days ago, he showed up at our door.
“I have those letters for you,” he said. “Are you sure you want them?”
I figured it was another grocery bag. It wasn’t. It was five trips up and down the front steps with full boxes of direct mail treasure.
Uncle Maynard is the ideal donor. He’s a thoughtful, church-going, 78-year-old retiree. The most atypical about him as a donor is that he’s male. And he’s not online. Doesn’t own a computer, has no interest in adding the complication to his life.
Here’s who’s been writing to him:
- A lot of veterans’ aid organizations (Uncle Maynard is a veteran).
- Local social service organizations (food bank, rescue missions, Salvation Army, and others).
- International relief.
- Conservative political causes.
- Liberal political causes (Uncle Maynard is very broad-minded).
- Christian teaching ministries.
- A smaller number of other causes, including environmental, animal aid, and health organizations.
I’ll be showing you some of what I learn from Uncle Maynard’s Treasure Trove of Direct Mail Knowledge. In the mean time, I’m busy. I have a lot of sorting to do.
If you’re looking for quick, easy, and cheap improvements to your direct mail packages, check out this post at the Direct Creative Blog: 12 fast direct mail tests for cheapskates.
- Change your outer envelope.
- Test a new letter.
- Remove your brochure.
- Include a stand-alone reply form.
- Insert a lift note.
- Strengthen your offer.
- Offer something free.
- Add a time limit.
- Highlight your guarantee.
- Build a package around your self-mailer.
- Mail your print ad.
- Try the two-step.
Think of them as cheap tests. Or just as good ideas.
Quick: What percentage of the US Mail is solicitations from nonprofits?
My guess was about 20%. (It’s about a third of what’s in my mailbox.)
The truth? It’s 0.5%.
Not even one percent. I’ll bet you, like me, guessed a massively higher percentage than 0.5%.
So relax a little. We — all of us together — are not overflowing people’s mailboxes. Others are doing the overflowing. Don’t beat yourself up.
And then read this excellent post about fundraising through the mail at Passionate Giving: What’s Wrong with the Mail?
Mail is still a great way to communicate with and motivate donors.
See also this USA Today article on the same topic.
Here’s another fascinating post from the Joy of Direct Marketing blog: B2C Direct Mail: Learning from charities. It looks at fundraising direct mail from a commercial DM perspective, and finds our stuff pretty darn good. (I noted a similar post from this same blog last month.)
Here’s what they noted about fundraising mail:
- The mailings are in envelopes.
- The envelopes have teaser copy on the outside.
- Everything in the “package” looks easy to read even before you start reading.
- The writers are never showing off their brilliance; the copy is always in simple language.
- They have letters and the letters have a personal, one-to-one, feel about them.
- There’s usually a (relevant) story of some kind that draws the reader in.
- The writer makes a point of establishing a one-to-one connection.
- Sometimes there is a brochure, sometimes not.
- They often contain involvement devices, something for the recipient to “play” with, however minor it may be: a sticker you move from here to there, for example.
- The copy might tug gently at your heartstrings, but it doesn’t beat you over the head.
- The copy is as long as it has to be.
- They do what all sales managers wish their salespeople would do: they ask for the order in several different ways.
- They are positive, upbeat and focused on success.
- They usually feature testimonials.
- They keep coming.
What’s funny about this list is that many of these things are under constant attack by fundraisers(usually inexperienced ones) who think these things are corny, old-line “techniques” that “nobody would respond to.”
But this is the stuff that pays our salaries and makes our good deeds possible. If you’re doing it right, keep doing it! If not, here’s a good list to follow.