ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Hospital’s Lori O’Brien on Direct Mail Success
Amid reports that online ad spending is growing faster than that of offline channels, smart marketers recognize media selection is not an either/or scenario. Direct mail, long the workhorse of direct marketing, will continue to play a key role—especially for nonprofits like ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Target Marketing Tipline took some time to speak with Lori O’Brien, senior vice president of national direct mail at ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Hospital, about the nonprofit’s success with direct mail. ALSAC/St. Jude’s national direct mail division has a strong program that reaches out to 18 million donors on record; of that, 5 million donors have given within the last 24-36 months.
Target Marketing: What role does direct mail play in your organization?
Lori O’Brien: It is, without a doubt, the single largest source of revenue of our fundraising programs. My division, national direct marketing, [is] responsible for about 45 percent of the revenue that is generated, and of that, 98 percent of that money is generated by direct mail. To give you a feel … the other top [marketing] divisions generate like 29 percent of the revenue, 27 percent of the revenue. So you can see that the 45 percent is basically twice of what any other division generates.
TM: What are the reasons for ALSAC/St. Jude’s success with direct mail?
LO: I really do think it goes back to the way the hospital was founded by Danny Thomas. He’s not a figurehead or a spokesman for the hospital … Danny Thomas was a television personality back when there were only three channels. A large percent of America knew him and were entertained by him, and really came to trust him. He made this direct appeal to people to support his hospital, so I think when the mail started supporting that, there was already a brand association that St. Jude was something you could trust; St. Jude was honest; St. Jude was really working on something very needed. I think that now, our success in curing childhood cancer—or increasing the survival rates for childhood cancer—I think that the fact that we’re associated with those successes, people feel very comfortable supporting a charity they know their money is making a difference [for].