Covenant House’s Joan Smyth Dengler on Integrated Campaigns
Just as two brains often are better than one, so is the case with direct response media. Covenant House, a New York City-based nonprofit and the largest privately funded childcare agency in the Americas, has found success in supporting its direct mail efforts with other media to drive response. And the result is not only improved donations to the campaign at hand, but also to the organization’s communications over the long haul, says Joan Smyth Dengler, Covenant House’s vice president of direct response. Here, she shares some details from the nonprofit’s direct marketing program and lessons learned when layering media.
Target Marketing: What direct response media do you use to communicate with donors?
Joan Smyth Dengler: We’re using mail, telephone and e-mail/online. We did a DRTV test in early 1990, and it was spectacularly unsuccessful. We actually had Danny Aiello in our little show. But it was such a dud that we thought the computer was capturing the codes wrong [since] there were so few responses, that sort of thing.
TM: What’s your average donor profile?
JSD: Sixty-five and older. Slightly more female than male. About two-thirds of them are probably Catholic. Retired. Own their own homes. Well educated.
TM: How do you layer media to improve response to your donor appeals?
JSD: We tend to follow up the postal mail with phone calls and e-mail. We have tested pre-calls; they haven’t been bad, but we mail so frequently that it’s hard to have a protected window. And if we’re pre-calling you on the September appeal but you’ve got the August appeal in your hand, then it gets confusing for the donors.
TM: What results have you gained through this integrated approach?
JSD: We’ve found that anyone with whom we interact in more than one medium [has] a better long-term value. So if we can engage them on a couple of levels, I guess we engage them better and they stick around longer and are worth more. Even if we get you in the mail around the Christmas campaign but talk to you on the phone about our crisis hotline, you’re still a better long-term donor than somebody we only get with one medium.