From Finger-Painting to Direct Mail Creative
When the frantic holiday season dawns each year, New York City-based hunger relief charity City Harvest readies its proven year-end appeal. In the past decade, the organization has mailed a 51/2" x 71/2" holiday effort with a theme that aptly illustrates its mission, and tugs on the heartstrings of anyone who loves children (611CITHAR1203).
The package is simple: a 5" x 7" fold-out card for the main message, a 41/2" x 61/4" donation card to send a gift in someone's honor, a donor card and a CRE. The only variable that changes each year is the artwork presented throughout the package.
According to Amy Leveen, president of Amy Leveen Associates, a direct mail consultancy that works with the organization, City Harvest hosts an arts contest every year for the children it benefits. "The only requirement is that [the children] must include a City Harvest truck [in their drawing]," she says. "The winner receives a shopping bag full of art supplies."
The lucky child's artwork is emblazoned on City Harvest's outer envelope and on both donor cards inside. "Typically, the organization receives a 7 to 10 percent response rate from this package, which goes out to all donors who have given a gift in the past 72 months," says Heather Wallace, direct mail manager, City Harvest.
The main card begins by thanking donors for their continued support:
... Because the number of hungry people increased in New York during 2003, we had to work harder and more efficiently to provide more food. And, with your support, we helped feed over 200,000 people each week.
As part of the annual drop to spur end-of-the-year giving, City Harvest presents two different "ask" strings. The first begins with $118, and continues: $250, $500 and $1,000. "This one goes out to donors who have given gifts of $100 or more," Leveen says. "That first number relates to how much it costs to rescue a pound of food." The second string, geared toward donors who have given less than $100, features the following gift range: $54, $75, $125, $220.
"We are doing some testing on this package this year," Leveen explains. "One of the things that's a struggle for all nonprofit organizations is how to get donors who have just [made a gift] to give a second gift." For only a small segment of first-time donors, City Harvest will test sending hand-addressed envelopes and notes in lieu of the current laser-jetted treatment. Both Leveen and Wallace say they find the use of personalization to be effective in overcoming donor attrition.
Employing the artistic talents of NYC youth certainly seems to be working for City Harvest, but the urban charity also was in the mail in December with a brown-paper bag effort, where the bag serves as the carrier envelopea creative concept that an increasing number of nonprofits are exploring and that City Harvest has been mailing on and off for several years. The Johnson box copy on the letter reads: "Most likely, having enough food to fill this lunch bag isn't a problem for you. Not everybody is so lucky."