Breaking Rules and Taking Names
For most mailers, the key to an effective reply device lies in one word, or actually one acronym: KISS, aka "Keep It Simple, Stupid." Tests have shown that you should ask as little of prospects as possible on a reply device, sometimes to the point of not even requiring them to put pen to paper. But, as Los Angeles-based animal rights group Last Chance for Animals (LCA) has found, it can pay to break the rules.
The 81/2" x 11" reply device in LCA's most recent mailinga #10 envelope package that also includes a two-and-a-half-page letter, a six-panel brochure and a BREis anything but simple (Archive code #610-174354-0504). The two-color piece has a total of 22 check boxes in nine data points. In addition, the bottom half of the sheet is a petition to Senator Saxby Chambliss, chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition, supporting Senate bill 451, The Pet Safety and Protection Act. The "From" line of the petition is personalized with the recipient's name, and he is asked to sign and return it with his donation.
In addition to the options found on many nonprofit reply devices, such as the ask string (in this case $25, $35, $50 and other) and the option to pay via check or credit card, LCA also includes:
o Please check if you do not want a receipt of your donation.
o Please add me to LCA's email list.
o Telephone Number.
o Check here to receive LCA's Planned Giving Catalog.
o Sign me up for $__ automatic monthly/quarterly giving.
If you think that asking for all this is sure to depress response, the results would beg to differ. According to Tina Siatkowski, production coordinator at Lewis Direct, the Baltimore-based agency that works with LCA on its direct mail program, over the past year and a half, the nonprofit steadily has been increasing the amount of information it asks for without any dip in response. To the contrary, she explains, response has improved.
This improved response means that LCA not only has added to its donor base, but alsoand just as importantlyhas enhanced the amount of data it is able to collect on all these donors, stresses LCA's CFO Cindy Beal. "I like to keep as much information as I can in our database," stresses Beal. "The more information we can get, the more we can target people and do specific appeals to them, too."
For example, when respondents request a planned giving catalog, they are earmarked to receive future solicitations for that program, and will be included in mailings for a senior-targeted program, which currently is in the works. Although it is not collected on this reply device, Beal also likes to ask for a date of birth from donors so that they can be targeted for this program as well.
The petition, a tactic that LCA includes in all of its donor and acquisition mailings, also plays a valuable role, both in motivation and data gathering. And to get the most benefit from it, LCA does not perf the petition or provide prospects with an address for the intended recipient. Directly above the petition is the line, "Please do not detach. LCA will forward the petition on your behalf."
According to Beal, this is an important step. "If we give the opportunity to just sign the petition and send it in, they will do that and not necessarily send in donations," she explains. "[Also], we like to keep track of response. In this appeal, we want all those petitions to come back so we can give them to our lobbyist. We find it to be more effective to give all the petitions at once. It's more powerful to see them all together." As an activist organization, LCA also is interested in those respondents who send in the petition and do not donate, which Beal says happens, though not that often. Those people go into the database as "zero" donation activists, and they will receive activist call-to-action alertsusually in postcard formrather than traditional
solicitations. "These people may never really donate, but I try to utilize them how I can," asserts Beal.