The October mailstream teemed with nonprofits, some of which relied on great copy to capture attention from prospects while others sprinkled some new approaches into their control mailings. In terms of trendspotting, the National Wildlife Federation not only sent out a 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 self-mailer (a very rare format in fundraising mail), but also tries mightily to push renewing members to the Web. “Renew NOW, renew ONLINE … and help protect America’s wildlife from global warming and other threats,” reads the back. On the front, in order to claim a premium for free (a stuffed penguin toy), it gives an online renewal deadline (Archive code #610-171764-0710A).
Getting members back in the fold is always an awkward challenge, but the Nature Conservancy has come up with a clever reacquisition #7 effort, termed “membership reinstatement.” Personalized on the response form and letter, which are perfed together, the copy is also substantially more respectful and “you-oriented” than we’re used to seeing in renewal mailings (Archive code #603-172397-0710A).
On the other hand, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points the finger at the lapsed member on the #7 outer itself, with a rather strong teaser, “I’m so disappointed you’re not renewing your Membership …” in large, bold letters. The “I” is NRDC’s president, whose name sits in the corner card and who also writes the letter inside. That letter starts equally strong, but then successfully tells the former member that their “support has meant a great deal to us” and goes on to make a very personal appeal that may bring them back into the fold (Archive code #603-171943-0710).
The Paralyzed Veterans of America use a standard nickel mailing, but with a couple of neat twists. On the back of the BRC, they’ve put a Post-it note reminding the prospect to “return the enclosed nickel—we need every nickel to assist vets in desperate need!” Also, timed with Veterans Day, they provide a card that the prospect can sign and enclose with the reply form, which will go to a paralyzed veteran (Archive code #604-171930-0710C).
“Lift carefully … hundreds of meals inside.” Admit it, that’s a great teaser. It’s from Food & Friends, and it’s on a #7 that also stands out because it’s brown recycled paper rather than the bleached white envelopes we’re accustomed to getting. Inside, it seems to get even better: “Here’s what you won’t find accompanying this letter: address labels that ‘guilt trip’ you into giving; an expensive calendar that you don’t need … or a vague-sounding petition to somebody in Washington.” There’s only one problem: It steals the lead that Oxfam has made their staple for years. However, it still works and, in any case, goes immediately into the story behind this nonprofit and the many people it’s helped. Lastly, it uses six simulated “meal tickets,” each denoting a donation amount that approximates a certain number of meals, such as “$50 Meal Ticket – 31 Meals” (Archive code #611-414710-0710).
To get it “off to a fast start,” the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) decided to send out a fundraising letter in advance of its Telethon Campaign. Rather than use a standard letter and reply form, however, the MDA used a greeting card with a Degas-like watercolor of a young girl doing ballet; inside the card, the prospect finds a short letter from Jerry Lewis, the famed comedian and national chairman of the MDA. At the bottom of the note is a small picture of the watercolor artist, who turns out to have muscular dystrophy. An unusual freemium, a light switch sticker with the same watercolor, is also enclosed (Archive code #604-171728-0710).
Along with all of these shining examples of good direct fundraising mail, we also had a local (in other words, Philadelphia–based) mailer stumble with their effort. The Friends of Independence National Historical Park sent out a letter on fancy letter stock and a slick brochure/membership application in a #10, in hopes to re-up a lapsed member. However, only the letter is personalized, as the reply/membership form is completely blank and thus forces the prospect to fill it out again! To add insult to injury, the close of the letter asks for a referral to a “potential member” and, in turn, will send a copy of the book “What Would the Founders Do?”—but there’s nowhere in the mail piece to do that (Archive code #602-416638-0710).
One to Watch: Hillary Clinton
With the primaries heating up, it seems appropriate to cover a candidate’s direct mail. In the case of Hillary Clinton, not only has she recently come back from a loss in Iowa to win New Hampshire, her fundraising mail also is deserving of some praise. In the corner card, a stylized “Hillary for President” stands out over a version of the American flag; the only other words on the #10 are “campaign update” repeated across the middle three times (Archive code #608-710054-0710).
Inside is a complete direct mail package, with a two-page memo, a reply form, a buckslip and a BRE. Rather than use the stand letter approach, it choose to use a two-page memo format in order to possibly lend the mailing an official/insider tone—and it comes from Senator Clinton’s campaign manager. The “RE” in the memo? “Our Campaign’s Action Plan for Victory.” That “action plan” includes references to the campaign’s overriding themes, the need to raise more campaign money (never enough of that, it seems) and a bulleted list of what “we have accomplished so far with your support.” The memo closes with a four-point action plan for victory, as promised earlier.
What takes this political fundraising mail piece to the “One to Watch” level, however, is the buckslip. Made of thick, coated card stock, it appears to be made to carry around. One side features the campaign’s logo and the other “10 reasons to support Hillary Clinton for President and help make history.” Reminiscent of Rudy Giuliani’s “12 Pledged Oaths” on his reply form, this list is a lot more specific, such as “To return to fiscal responsibility, move back toward a balanced budget, and safeguard Social Security and Medicare for future generations.”