Special Olympics' Control Gets the VIP Treatment
Inviting prospective donors to attend a special event hosted by your charity is hailed by most nonprofit experts as the ultimate pitch.
Consider a fund-raiser like Special Olympics, which focuses on providing athletic opportunities for people with mental retardation. Donor money pours in to help those with disabilities train and compete in eventsthe Summer Games, for examplethat contributors can attend.
Now you have a response-driving technique on your hands.
In April, the charity dropped a 4" x 8" envelope appeal that offered contributors two VIP tickets to any event or competition at the 2003 Special Olympics Summer Games in New York (607SPEOLY0403). According to Meredith Petouvis, manager of direct response marketing for Special Olympics North America, the fund-raiser tested this tickets package against the control in 1999, which was then a Summer Games-related package that did not include tickets.
The tickets package beat the control and became the new control for the charity's Games promotions in 2000.
"Addressing the donors as VIPs is an important component of the package," says Petouvis. "Their support is vital to our ability to provide training and competition. While the former [games-related] control invited them to attend, the tickets package does it with more class and places a higher emphasis on [contributors'] importance to our ongoing mission."
Even if donors cannot attend, says Petouvis, it's important they know they are always welcome at the Games. The new control package is straightforward and contains just four elements: a 7-1/4" x 7", double-sided letter; two standard-size tickets with a perf-off order card; a "SUPPORT THE 2003 SUMMER GAMES" decal; and a BRE.
The letter copy, albeit tight and concise, tugs on the heartstrings of potential contributors: "Athletes like Craig Ludin from Dix Hills [NY] are training hard in sports like swimming, and can't wait to show everybody on June 12-15 at Hempstead. If you could attend and cheer them on, you'd help build their self-esteem. That's why I've enclosed two 'tickets.' (All Special Olympics competitions are free to the public, but I hope you'll use these tickets as a handy reminder)."
In Hempstead, NY, and in other areas of the country, the roughly one-million people with mental retardation Special Olympics is currently serving are gearing up for the Summer Games. This particular package, sent to a prospective New York-area donor, also is hitting mailboxes all over the country to drum up contributions and, hopefully, attendance.
"The Special Olympics headquarters office manages a centralized direct mail program that the majority of the state chapters participate in," says Petouvis. "The tickets package is tailored to each participating chapter with appropriate event dates and location, and tidbits about a local athlete participating in the Games."
Much like in the for-profit direct mail world, recipients want to be engaged, included and involved. Special Olympics has discovered an effective way of pushing prospects to respond, while furthering its brand of caring deeply about those who contribute in the process.
"Results are not yet fully exposed, but the April appeal as a wholeincluding testingis performing to expectations," says Petouvis.