In the current climate of shrunken personal savings and swelling unemployment percentages, many folks are feeling less fortunate, literally. Of course, many of these direct mail prospects know that others out there, at home and certainly in Third World countries, have it worse, but the self-preservation instinct is kicking in more than usual, with 2008 ranking as one of the worst years the fundraising sector has seen. At its 46th International Conference on Fundraising in New Orleans, La., held earlier this week, the Association of Fundraising Professionals reported that less than half of charities raised more money in 2008 than in 2007 and, more importantly (or frighteningly), fundraising gains dropped significantly across the board.
So what is a nonprofit to do? A careful examination of the sector in our Who's Mailing What! Archive-the world's most comprehensive library of direct mail-reveals several outstanding efforts that put more creative effort into their outer envelopes than usual. It almost appears that these select nonprofits understand that even fewer envelopes are being opened today, so the outer has more work to do than usual to get prospects' attention and compel them to get inside. And once inside, the case of the far less fortunate must be made better than ever.
A colorful #10 from the National Parkinson's Foundation greets the prospect with the acronym NPF made up of a striking pastel painting. The only words displayed appear at the top: "INSIDE: An accomplished artist's courageous struggle with Parkinson's disease ..." Most prospects will guess the pastel comes from an artist suffering with Parkinson's, and the letter inside confirms that, as both his picture and his story are delivered expertly. Then the reply card and labels tie the whole mailing together by featuring Jose Bernal's art (Archive code #604-671525-0901).
The letter does exactly what a nonprofit needs it to do today: Explain, not even too delicately, that the prospect has it good, but many others do not. The Johnson's box features seven large words: "Good health is an incredible gift, but ..." That thought is continued in the lede, which says, "Too many take it for granted. We shouldn't though. Good health can be taken from us or a loved one in an instant." That's called impactful writing.