In today's economic climate, when a constituent must tighten her belt, it may be hard for her to conceive that a reduced or small donation will even make an impact. While many fundraising direct mail packages include copy to combat this worry, saying, "Every dollar counts," or show charts indicating what each dollar amount equates to in relief, a recent mailing from the Council of Indian Nations (CIN) takes this approach one step further.
In its recent April control mailing, sent to prospective and prior donors, CIN spot-glues a penny and a dime into the middle of its letter to illustrate the power of each donation and provoke empathy between constituents and benefactors. The package arrives in an official-looking #10 with a window and includes a double-sided letter with the reply perfed to the top, a buckslip and a BRE.
Throughout the package, the enclosed 11 cents is equated to "a serving of food for a hungry Native American." In a strong P.S., arguably one of the most-read sections of a letter, the persuasive copy reads, "You can help us create a miracle for a hungry Native American for less than eleven cents a serving! Think about that the next time you pay $1.00 for a soft drink or a cup of coffee!"
"When a donor sees that a serving of food can cost just 11 cents, for one thing that's just good stewardship, but it also makes it clear to the donor that any size donation can go a long way to help," comments Helen Oliff, public relations manager for National Relief Charities, the parent organization that runs eight regional programs, serving 75 reservations year-round, and is responsible for CIN's fundraising.
The 11 cents theme is echoed on the reply card, where each ask amount is shown in dollars and corresponding food servings. For example, a $10 donation secures 91 servings of food. "We do think that the response card echoing that does help drive the message home ... relating 11 cents to a serving helps the donor relate the serving to the recipient ... It brings that donor closer to the recipient," Oliff details (Archive code #606-637395-0905).
Another way the CIN mailing stokes empathy in the reader is through imagery. Two photographs on the right margin of the letter show the blighted desert landscape of the Southwestern United States, with a handwritten caption, "Devastating weather affects food production. One year drought, the next floods! We can help for only 11 cents." There is also a powerful buckslip included with a picture of a dejected Native American child and further details about the desperate food conditions and how the organization provides assistance.
CIN first mailed this package in 1997, and it has mailed almost every year since, making it the current control. The organization commonly runs tests for creative and demographic selections. In the past, tests to the outer envelope indicated that official-looking envelopes pull more response than those with more copy and design. That's why the current incarnation mails in a #10, with copy above the address window reading, "PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL, TO BE OPENED BY ADDRESSEE ONLY."
The package mails to CIN's housefile and prospect audiences, and the ask for previous donors varies to reflect giving history. CIN's donor base is spread nationwide, and the average donor is middle-class and more than 55 years old. To bolster its direct mail efforts, CIN does some e-mail marketing. "On the [direct mail] reply cards we do not collect a great percentage of e-mail addresses, but it's worth asking for them on the reply ... We do also receive some online donations, and we can track those responses through the URL back to the package," Oliff shares.
While she cannot share the specific results of the package, Oliff says it continues to meet the organization's goals of generating strong revenue while increasing the donor file. She projects that the needs of the reservations will remain consistent and National Relief Charities and CIN will continue to mail consistent to those needs. "Like all nonprofits, we are concerned about the economy. People who are living in poverty-stricken conditions do feel the pinch even more when the money does tighten up," Oliff explains. However, as long as the CIN coin package remains the control, Oliff believes it will continue to mail.
Buckslip as Lift Note
Not every direct mail budget can accommodate a formal lift note, which-with copy and paper costs-is effectively as expensive as a "second letter." In its control mailing, Council of Indian Nations (CIN) includes a buckslip with a powerful image and copy to further convince readers to donate. "The content on the buckslip serves as a lift note to further portray the difference that 11 cents can make," shares Helen Oliff, public relations manager for National Relief Charities, CIN's parent organization.