Does Giving Up Beget Giving More?
For the most part, when people pick up their mail and hear something shake or rattle inside, they assume they have just received a free gift. After all, it is commonplace these days to find mailboxes filled with direct mail freebiesgifts enticing prospects to purchase a product, sign up for a subscription or make a donation.
So, when recipients of a mailing sent by Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Belleville, Ill., heard something rattle inside the 81/2 " x 6" envelope and read the teaser, "Inside: One ration of lifesaving soup," they probably concluded they'd be mixing up some soup for lunch sometime that week and then maybe writing a donation check to the nonprofit (Archive code #609-173192-0502A).
But this mailing was different. Recipients opened this envelope to find a cornmeal packet bearing the message, "Not for consumption."
Sent out during the Lenten season, the idea of this campaign was to have recipients see, touch, feel ... and then give up, or sacrifice, that which so many others are in great need of.
"This mailing had to have a different message because it would be difficult to send a freemium, like a greeting card, for Lent," says Allison Hewitt, marketing director for Missionary Oblates. "We mail out plenty of freemiums other times of the year. For instance, devotional greeting cards are a staple for us, as are rosary pins, statues, medals and key chains. In this package, we are prompting the reader to return the packet, which contains enough cornmeal to make one ration of soup, along with a Lenten donation."
Missionary Oblates has been mailing its devotion package for the past four years and, while its message comes across as more humanitarian than religious, Hewitt says the effort is very much a religious one "because it is specifically for Lent and devotion."
The letter focuses heavily on this religious aspect using a passage from the Gospel of Matthew to detail just how much families living in Recife, Brazil, are in need of food, water, shelter and clothing, and how helping them brings Matthew's words to life:
For I was hungry and you fed me: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger and you took me in: Naked and you clothed me... For whatever you do for the least of my people, you have done so for me.
The donation slip also centers around this passage, indicating what donation amounts will provide for the people of Recife and associating each amount with a part of the passage:
For I was hungry and you fed me... For your offering of $16 ... Fr. Ed can provide hot soup for a family of four for a month. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink... Your Lenten offering of $20 ... can provide clean water for a year ...
The question needs to be asked then: Does giving up something personally beget giving more to others? According to Hewitt, it seems, at least in this case, the answer is yes. She reports that this package brings in one of the association's better donation amounts and response rates. "Possibly because of the interactivity and the tangibility," she says. "There is something to be said for putting the need of others in scope for the possible donor."
Sharon R. Cole
Sharon Cole is a Philadelphia-based writer contributing to print-industry publications.