List View: Make Advocacy Lists Work
While we always have used terms like “outside the box” and “under the radar” opportunities when touting our skills, we as brokers and managers truly are pressed to find new sources of names for our clients, or new sources of revenue for our list owners. Mailers that were understandably cautious in 2003 today are list owners with much smaller universes and much smaller hotlines.
Many years ago, I worked at a list company with advocacy and veteran donor files. I cut my teeth in the list business with newsletters, so I knew seniors were “information hungry” and direct mail responsive. I wanted to put numbers up quickly, so I called the brokers I knew for newsletters, catalogs and magazines. I unwittingly set myself on a course of “out-of-market” list rental sales, and it’s a bailiwick that has proven challenging, exciting and profitable.
There is a huge, untapped market of political names out there with universes that exceed 100,000. And there is no way around this simple fact: These individuals are opening the mail, pulling out their wallets and responding.
Generally speaking, the advocacy donor is a senior citizen responding to issues they emotionally believe in and messages they trust and that play an important part in their lives. And they might respond to you if you have a product they can feel good about.
Here’s how to go “out-of-category” and navigate the world of advocacy fundraising lists:
• Who is the political donor? Issue mailers really know their base and quite a bit about loyalty. They have reached out to, empowered, informed and enlisted the support of their donor bases in a way that is unique only to issue fundraising. They mail these folks house mailings—often two times a month—and get a response and a gift! They give these folks opportunity and a voice, and impress upon them that it is heard, valued and appreciated.
What are they responding to? Ask the list manager directly, “Would this work for my offer?” He or she should know and give you the insight you need to minimize the risk to your mailer.
• Why should you test them? Many of these groups will be unrecognizable by name. Don’t discount lists that have statements for titles. Things like “Citizens for …”, “Compassionate This” or “Fighters for That.” The list owners often have a heightened sense of privacy. If you don’t know, ask. A routine faxed sample and count request isn’t going to cut it.
• Why should you mail them? It’s a veritable bed of untapped responsive names, a captured audience at your fingertips. It then becomes more a matter of volume and pricing. In its own market, the advocacy donor name is priced at $130/M, on average. But a completely noncompetitive mailer should get a much better price (the revenue is welcome to a 501C4), so the test becomes worthwhile to all.
Never forget, these folks are opening up their wallets, repeatedly, without any write off, immediate gratification or product being shipped. There is no tax deduction, and no labels or greeting cards. More work generally is requested—surveys to be filled out, ballots to be cast, and responses to be voiced and tallied. These folks have a real interaction with their mail.
• How to test the “issue” donor? First, skip the natural tendency toward a hotline mentality. Remember, they didn’t just buy something; they gave. And chances are they gave a month ago and the month before that and the month before that. These donors, as I mentioned, are getting mail all the time. Asking just for the donor who gave this month could mean you’re minimizing your performance potential and also minimizing your rollout potential.
You would be much better served to send your offer to Mr. John Q. Sample, who has given $10 to $15 every month for the last year to have his voice heard, than to Mrs. Betty B. Sample, who has only given once in the last three months and may not be committed to the organization. The “recency hotline” in the advocacy world does not necessarily mean new-to-file. It means “recent gift,” and that might only give you Betty the one-time donor, not John, who has given more than $150 this year.
Use your head. If the individuals appear more traditional or conservative, don’t suggest they rub crystals to cure cancer. Rather, offer them a piece of history (a coin or a book), a well-made product (supplements, crafts, blenders, vacuums) or information they can use in their lives (education, health advice, news), and they will respond.
Send them something they can feel good about, something that will enhance their lives, a good, solid product, a long-term investment, something they read about, heard good things about, something they will want more of, and they will make those choices with the same sense of dedication and commitment that you’re expecting.
Rita O’Neill is president of O’Neill Marketing Co. in Fairfax, Va., a provider of list management and list brokerages services. She has a 10-year track record of “out-of-market” list research and sales. She can be reached at (703) 934-0272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.