I recently (January 28, 09) listened in on a “Brown Bag Phone Meeting entitled Fundraising in Challenging Economic Times,” a discussion about fundraising in these difficult times. Our own Luke Vander Linden was one of the presenters. I thought it was productive and useful to PBS stations.
However, I just wanted to express a difference in opinion with one point made during the session.
If memory serves me, there was a comment in response to a question, that in effect, said that the best direct mail packages are the cheapest ones and that letters are just letters, and so, when writing to someone (donors) the best letter is one that is most inexpensive to produce.
I take exception with this comment; direct mail packages are three dimensional ads that travel via a different media, but they are created as a combination of art and science. If any letter would do, there would be no need for professional direct response copywriters and designers or any of the new techniques developed to allow for targeted segmentation and personalization. All the techniques like tipped on nickels or dimes and name and address labels would be wasted effort and materials. Sophisticated mailers refine their techniques and materials — colors, formats and shapes and sizes to improve return. An example is the Disabled Veterans name/address labels and the many mailings we receive with nickels and headlines that say something like: “your nickel will go a long way toward saving a child’s life” and so on. They are used because they work and a simple letter wouldn’t pay off as well.
It is fortunate that our discipline allows us to test ideas and techniques on a limited budget, thereby avoiding spending large sums on volume mailings without knowing what we can expect in return for our investment.
Of course we all have to work within a budget and there are times (like right now) when we can’t spend a lot on direct marketing techniques that improve response and income. But when we find something that significantly improves yield and gives us a larger ROI, that’s the better way to go. An uncle of mine used to say, “Cheap is Dear” and that is proven many times over in our test results.
I decided to write this because I didn’t want your participants to think that anything suggested to them which is more than a simple letter isn’t necessary. What’s necessary is what works best and we have to invest in inventing and trying things that keep us ahead of the curve (the curvy economy).
That’s how we’ve been able to increase yield and income for many fund raising partners for many years.
Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome (below).