Case Study: Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
Mathematics is hard for a lot of people. And it kind of starts out that way. At present, my third grader is getting to know factors and products, and these silly numbers frankly don't always make a lot of sense to her. Not yet, at least, but she's determined to master them.
In its Fall campaign, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin brings together the can't-fail combination of a determined child alongside math that no adult will argue with (Archive code #613-717956-0909; to order, call 215-238-5225 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).
A small picture of a smiling little girl graces the #10 outer, alongside faux-handwritten blue copy "Children like Caitlin need You! Matching gift opportunity inside." Next to the window of the prospect, then, is some silly math that most donors will instantly appreciate: "$1 = $2", next to the words "DoubleYourGift" and "$1=$2" (see thumbnails below).
Guess what? This little mail piece — and the letter, reply card (with $25, $50 and other amounts next to the gift boxes as well as on the three Challenge checks perfed to the reply card) and BRE inside — did wonders for this hospital. Total direct mail response rate was a very impressive 6.2 percent, and the average gift amount was $52.
I recently asked Janice M. Flammia, SVP at direct marketing agency Vital Data Management, which ran the campaign, and Monica Tiffany, creative strategist/copywriter at Merrigan & Co., which provided copywriting services, what made this campaign a winner amid this dismal economy.
Boldt: What was the overall objective of the campaign?
Flammia: The CHW direct mail program had suffered a setback in 2007 because of turnover in staff. The challenge was developed as a means to invigorate the program, re-engage high dollar ($100+) lapsed donors and, in particular, lift response rates in the renewal program. It also served as a vehicle to integrate online and email into the direct marketing program for the first time by design. Lastly, it aimed to leverage major donor support.
Boldt: How did the creative come together?
Flammia: The hospital's direct mail program had for several years used appeal letters that were based on patient stories and used photos of the children as the key graphic element. This design built on that style and went further by adding the donor involvement device — to help meet the objective of increasing response rate.
We also thought it would be important to name the campaign "Double Your Gift" to give it some identity and urgency as well as help carry the branding over to digital collateral. Had a "gift challenge" mailing been done before? Never. But we had some experience using the challenge with other hospital clients as part of the annual fund program — with much success.
Boldt: Why do think the Caitlin lead — "Caitlin's mom can't even imagine what would've happened if Children's Hospital of Wisconsin hadn't been there ... The aneurysm is her daughter's brain might have burst causing either a stroke or death. But thanks to caring friends like you...' — was so effective? How much did the picture on the out and letter tie into this effectiveness?
Tiffany: It's immediate - there's no time wasted getting right into this family's story and that creates momentum and a sense of building up to the crescendo right away. Also, the language is very consciously direct and emotional.
The photo is a big part of it. It's so engaging — when you're reading it, it looks like Caitlin is looking right at you. Good photography is critical.
Boldt: The dollar match is mentioned in bold on the 5th paragraph. Why was this the best and earliest place to mention it?
Tiffany: It's a main focal point in the letter. Knowing that people scan, the mid-point of the page is a strong place to put your most urgent copy. In this case, we wanted donors to know they needed to take action quickly so their gift would be doubled.
Boldt: You mention the current economy. How important was this?
Tiffany: Janice and I talked about this. It creates a sense of solidarity, lets the donor know the organization is engaged and aware — and perhaps experiencing some of the same economic challenges they are.
I think it also shows respect to the people who support your organization's mission. It acknowledges that there are many worthy organizations the donor could choose to support, and we're grateful they choose to support Children's Hospital.
Boldt: The copy is just over a page? Why was this length chosen versus two pages, or four pages?
Tiffany: With a matching gift, there needs to be a sense of urgency. The shorter copy — that's still long enough to include the rich details of the story and build the case for giving - achieves that.
Boldt: What was the audience/list?
Flammia: Primarily donors that had made gifts to the annual fund by mail in the past three years, via email event donors and subscribers to the enewsletter, and website visitors.
Boldt: What other response data can you report?
Flammia: 7,500 pieces were mailed, two times, in September and October. The second mailing was a reminder and did not include the matching checks. Email appeal went to 6,700 and an enewsletter with blurb on the campaign and link to a special landing page at the website went to 15,000.
Total DM response rate was 6.2 percent; the average gift amount was $52. Online contributions made through a dedicated "Double Your Gift" donation form during the campaign (8/21-11/4), were 8.5% more than all online donations during the previous eight months.
Total direct mail income was $45,875 over two drops. Combined total of online and direct mail was $62,117. Percentage online revenue was 26 percent.
Boldt: In conclusion, what worked best in this package? What didn't? What is its future?
Flammia: The story, images, website presence and deadline to give worked best. The cost was too high. We took a risk spending a bit more on the package, especially not knowing how the economy would play out in 2009. Plans were developed in the first half of the year.
We are now aiming to have another challenge this fall that will be more targeted to raise support for a specific initiative or program. We are also hoping to find an individual or corporate donor who is willing to be named and more visible in the campaign.