On Sunday the cost of sending mail via the US Postal System goes up (see exactly how much). Certainly for those of us mailing things, this is a bummer but it doesn't mean we should stop our mailing efforts. It just means we have to be smarter about them. (Hello forever stamps.) Below is the first in a series of posts we'll be running here on Connection Cafe to help make your direct mail efforts more effective. I hope you'll find the series helpful!
There’s a lingering misconception that direct mail and the web are fundamentally at odds. It’s more accurate to say that they complement and influence the other, and can enhance campaign effectiveness when considered as part of a whole. Consider designing your direct mail with the following in mind:
1. Cross-channel influence is already the norm.
Good — you’ve been putting the web address on every element in a mail package. But go so far as to assume your audience will actually use it, and more: they may visit your Facebook page, watch your videos on YouTube, perhaps even read your fascinating blog. Consider each touchpoint and craft your mail accordingly, each with a reasonable level of visual consistency. Note, please: reasonable. Avoid including elements you know will suppress response or outstrip ROI, but otherwise use everything relevant — logo, color, type, photo style, structure — to immediately* assure brand recognition across every channel. Your marketing then becomes part of the web, and isn’t just pointing to it.
2. Old media has already been changed by new media.
You needn’t join the wailing that ‘Google is making us stupid’ to realize that reading — still the most effective means of absorbing complex information — has been profoundly altered by the web’s use of hyperlinked, encapsulated summary exposition.
Several years ago, my agency began testing direct response letters that included more white space, more “chunked” copy as well as incorporating graphic side bars to call out important parts of the letter text. In every case, we beat existing controls and soon replaced them. Assuming that our direct mail audience is primarily comprised of the well-researched 65+ donor, why is this working?
The answer is that every form of information delivery has changed and everyone’s design assumptions along with it. Surprisingly, the relative age of the tech doesn’t matter; Apple’s year-old iPad appeals as much to seniors as to younger demographics. Both equally enjoy the ease of use, rapid learning curve and app-based interface.** Therefore, designers can expect the definition of what’s legible to change as a result, and this will affect how we design for print, yet again.
3. New media learns from old media, too.
Good designers identify the virtues and limitations inherent in every medium, and then work to extend the former and overcome the latter. Well-designed direct mail, although deprived of clickable links and dazzling multimedia, retains its own unique advantage in delivering a warm, tactile reality. For now, it still expresses authenticity and tangible intimacy better than the cool surface of a screen.
So it shouldn’t be unexpected that web designers have been using the Internet’s improving speed and stability to incorporate what they can of print’s qualities. Expect subtlety. There will be increasing emphasis on legibility, reassuring textures and the printed quirks of a writer’s individuality*** — none of which are necessary, unless you realize that donors want not just information, but a person’s voice, telling a story meant wholly for them.
As the web continues to disrupt old models, dismantling scale economies and rewarding those of personal engagement, marketing effectively across multiple channels means satisfying donors’ demands for more tailored and fully integrated experiences. Understood as a key component for building trust and gaining support, direct mail — when well-designed — also serves to reinforce the brand's essential character at every touchpoint.
* How immediate? How about 50 milliseconds. That’s a blink of a human eye, quite literally.
** Technology makes things possible; design makes things lovable.
*** Such as a fondness for footnotes. Sadly, no one reads footnotes.
On road trips as a child my dad would frequently joke that if we drove long enough we’d eventually find a pledge drive on a local NPR station. Later in life, when I traveled extensively for my job, I’d call him when the town I was visiting was in pledge and my wife, who travels for her job, loves to do the same with me.
Personally, I love pledge drives, (no not because I’m hoping to complete my collection of NPR Travel Mugs) but because there are so many great examples and unique ways that the Public Media stations are reminding, sometimes imploring listeners, to support the amazing work they do. By no means is this an exhaustive collection, but here are few favorite examples that I've seen recently.
Clearly we have to start with the Alec Baldwin pledge drive promos that hit the air in 2010. According to the website, “Alec Baldwin told producers at WNYC that he'd be willing to do some promos for the upcoming Fall pledge drive, and suggested getting Ira Glass involved. So Ira and David Krasnow and Rex Doane wrote and produced several spots featuring Alec and a bunch of public radio hosts and announcers.” If you haven’t heard these yet, they are flat-out hilarious. But the beauty is they gave NPR a great way to make fun of themselves, all while still making a larger point: Support your local NPR station.
Speaking of local NPR stations, my station KUT-FM, did a great job of promoting sustaining giving during their most recent pledge drive. We all know the importance of building a strong base of sustaining givers but for many organizations, the question is how. Part of KUT’s answer was to promote it heavily on-air, in their direct mail efforts and online, but here was the kicker for me. They are entering sustaining donors into any and all drawings for the rest of the year. So anytime KUT runs a promotional drawing, their sustaining givers will be automatically added. The idea was a huge hit as they added a large number of sustaining givers to their membership (my wife and I included in that group).
As for a totally new idea and not technically in pledge, as far as I know, KQED is the first and only station to offer a GroupOn to build their membership base. I’ve reached out to the team that implemented this offer for additional details but haven’t heard back by ‘press time’. Despite that, what I do know is they have 531 new members from the offer! Considering the list file that GroupOn possesses, as well as their web traffic, in my opinion this was a great way of building their membership base leading up to their pledge drive.
So are there any amazing Pledge examples that I missed or should know about? And I can’t be the only person who loves pledge drives so let me know what you love (or hate) about pledge drives.
Reprinted from Feb/Mar 2011 issue of Convio Connection: interview with Dave Hart, Chief Technology Officer, Convio
You talk to a lot of nonprofit executives. What keeps them up at night?
The biggest concern that I hear over and over again is gaining a 360-degree view of their constituents. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to an executive director, a CIO, or a director of development – they all want more insight into how their organization interacts with its constituents. Without this holistic view, there is a loss of efficiency and productivity, not to mention missed opportunities for engagement.
What does a 360-degree view really mean?
That’s the challenging part because it means different things to different people. At the highest level, it means the individual wants to see as much information as possible about the organization’s constituents – either individually, by segments, or as a whole. But this definition starts to diverge when you examine what types of information are of interest to different people within a nonprofit. For example, an executive director might want a snapshot of where the organization stands on fundraising, with an opportunity to drill down to specific details about communications with an individual. They might also want a solution that enables them to produce reports quickly for review by their board of directors. A director of development or a major gifts officer is more interested in gaining quick access to the latest data about a donor so they can use that information in real-time when they connect with the individual. They expect the data to be accurate and timely, or else it is of little value to them.
How do these needs compare to the experience a constituent expects to have with an organization they support?
Well, that varies by type of interaction. When a constituent visits an organization’s website, they have high expectations and immediate needs. If they can’t find the information they are looking for, or if a webpage takes forever to render, then they will simply close the window and move on. In some cases, if the experience is especially negative, this might be the last time a constituent visits the nonprofit’s website. So, a well-organized website that renders quickly is absolutely key.
If your website meets those needs and the constituent attempts to fill in a form for a newsletter or to make a donation, then their expectations shift. Now, they are more interested in being able to input information easily – whether that’s using all lowercase letters, CAPS, abbreviations, etc. For the constituent, it’s all about ease of use and catering to their needs.
Offline, there is an expectation that when the organization contacts the individual, they will have the latest information about that person. This might include the date of their most recent donation, the amount, how often they tend to donate, their interests, and other personal information that the individual has shared with the nonprofit at various points during their relationship. If this information is not readily available, the constituent might become frustrated and feel unappreciated. In this case, not having the right data on-hand can cause permanent damage.
As a CTO, you obviously have a deep understanding of what these needs translate to on the technical side. Could you please elaborate?
Basically, such diverse needs translate to technical requirements on the database front. For simplicity sake, let’s group the needs into three main categories: online marketing, constituent relationship management, and integrated marketing. For the online marketing piece, you need a system that offers high performance for online transaction processing and 24/7 availability. Since constituents enter data that eventually gets moved into the system, the solution has to support unstructured data that is inherently dirty. Finally, it will need to integrate with many other applications in order to be valuable to an organization and for the organization to benefit from true integrated marketing.
On the constituent relationship management front, the needs are quite different. The main focus here is having a database that is infinitely extensible, so that it can grow and evolve with the organization, rather than constrain it. This database is used to enter and find information, so it needs to also be optimized for data entry.
When we look at the integrated marketing piece, you are faced with the need to store a tremendous amount of data in a way that is not cost-prohibitive. In contrast to the online marketing piece, the need for online transaction processing is replaced by batch processing.
You mentioned “true integrated marketing.” Tell me a bit more about your take on that.
In the nonprofit world, true integrated marketing is centered around the concept of having a comprehensive view of the constituent. Ideally, the organization has full access to online engagement data for mining and can use that data to engage constituents both offline and online. There is also a need to have robust reporting capabilities that enable a nonprofit to plan and execute integrated campaigns, and create engagement pathways. This meeting of the offline and online channels - and ensuring consistent, coordinated communications across both of them — represents true integrated marketing.
What is your definition of "true integrated marketing?" Comments welcomed below.
In my 13 years as an Executive Director I’ve raised over ten million dollars. Along the way I’ve learned a lot about what works when it comes to major gifts, what doesn’t work and how to keep my cool making an ask. But let’s cut to the chase. Let’s get the juicy part. Did I ever flub an ask? Were there times when I was so nervous I could barely get the words out? Did I ever ask for too much (yes)? Too little (of course)?
Because you are thinking, how can I not be THAT GUY?
Feeling nervous is normal. Everyone has fears; it’s what you do with your fear that determines if you’ll be successful. Here are my top ten tips to prepare for the best ask of your life.
Some of my favorite ways to open my ask are, “This is important enough to me that my husband and I have made a stretch gift to invest in the project and I hope you will join us with a ________ gift” or “Can we count on you for a gift of _________________?”
What happens next? They might say yes, they might say no, they might ask for some time to think about it or they could offer you a lower amount. If they want time to think about their gift set a return appointment before leaving. If they agree, thank them. If they offer you a lower amount you can either thank them for their generosity and accept the gift or ask if they’d prefer more time to think about it and set a return appointment. If they say no, ask if it is the amount of the gift or the timing. You can offer to stretch their gift out over time. If that doesn’t work ask them if they will renew at their current gift level.
Regardless of their response follow up within 24 hours with a hand written thank you card and confirmation letter if they committed to an amount. It breaks my fundraising heart when I hear about gifts that don’t go thanked. If they made a gift send more than one thank you letter from just one person; get others involved, like your board, volunteers or recipients to let your donor know how important their gift was. Good stewardship gets results! If you want to learn more about how to perform fantastic stewardship you can watch a recent webinar my colleague and I did, “The Golden Rule of Good Stewardship” complete with a free sample stewardship plan.
Remember: securing a successful gift is a combination of the right person asking the right prospect the right amount for the right purpose and in the right way.
Go forth and fundraise!
Today, April 5th, is TOMS Shoes One Day without Shoes and I have my bare feet at my desk. I jumped on board the TOMS bus last year channeling my inner-hippie with the canvas shoes. I love them. I knew the “one-for-one” tag line and what the shoes represented, one pair bought means one pair given to someone in need. But it wasn’t until I heard the founder, Blake Mycoskie, speak at this year’s AFP International Conference in Chicago that the shoes truly made their impact.
Did you know that in many developing countries, not only do most children grow up barefoot, but schools require shoes as part of the uniform, so many cannot even attend? Something as small as wearing shoes can keep them from an education and social activities. Kids walk miles in harsh terrain with nothing on their feet to protect them. Along with getting soil-transmitted diseases that run rampant in these developing countries, the fact that these kids don’t have the simple accessory of a shoe keeps them from learning and experiencing their own potential.
Blake Mycoskie created something without the intention of a fashion statement, but a philanthropic statement that has now reached over a million pairs of feet. When Blake was asked if the day he invented TOMS shoes changed his life, he said no. It was the day he put the first pair of shoes on a child’s feet that had never had some. So I slip on my TOMS with a little more reflection now.
Join me and people all over the world, for One Day without Shoes. Take part in this global initiative and kick your shoes off, whether it’s just at your desk, driving in your car, or if you're really hardcore -- walking around outside. Will your feet get dirty? Yes. Will you get weird stares from people? Absolutely. But curiosity means conversation which leads to action which results in change. So in the words of Nike… just do it.
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