Direct Mail Spotlight: Fountain House
Last month, at the famous Puck Building in Soho, New York, art dealers and collectors gathered for the 15th annual Outsider Art Fair, to trade the works of artists who are outside the boundaries of the traditional art world. Outsider art describes work created by disenfranchised and, in many cases, institutionalized artists suffering from mental illness.
Fountain House—an organization dedicated to the recovery and support of people suffering from mental illness—runs a nonprofit cooperative gallery for artists living with mental illness called Fountain Gallery. It used some of its members’ own visionary art, on note cards, to build its acquisition efforts. “We thought that was the perfect way to get into premium packages because it actually makes sense for us to showcase artwork in a direct mail package,” says Amy Tripi, president of Highland, N.Y.–based Tripi Consulting (Archive code #604-178165-0712).
The current freemium package came about two years ago, when Fountain House saw its mailing fatiguing, and worked with Tripi to develop a freemium-based package to test against the past letter, reply and lift note efforts. Back in August 2006, Fountain House mailed the new freemium-based package, which had a large window on the outer envelope where one of four note cards could peek through. The package consisted of four note cards with art from Fountain House Gallery’s own members, short biographies of the artists on the back of each card, matching address labels, a letter and reply. “We had some pretty aggressive projections about how that package would do, but in fact, it beat all projections. We had a 300 percent response increase with this package,” Tripi reveals.
Due to the success of that original package, Tripi next tested into a calendar mailing—featuring 16 large works of art for 16 months. This calendar package won in average gifts, but proved too expensive to produce. So in August 2007, she enhanced the original note card effort by adding matching envelopes with art printed on the back flaps. “That package still did very well. Because of the success of that, we were afraid that the imagery would tire over time. So what we did in our November mailing, we decided to pull in more wintery themes—that is our winter note card collection,” Tripi explains.