St. Mary’s/Westside Food Bank Alliance’s Cucitro on Fundraising
For many nonprofits, direct mail is an essential fundraising tool … and a big cost center. But not so for St. Mary’s/Westside Food Bank Alliance, which has found some creative ways to keep direct mail expenses down and revenues up. In 2005, direct mail accounted for nearly $3.3 million of the food bank’s $9.2 million fundraising revenue, explains Claudia Cucitro, the Phoenix-based organization’s associate director of development. Plus, the development team accomplished this while still investing 96 cents of every dollar raised in food bank programs. “Mail is one of the things our senior staff is committed to putting money into because it’s so cost-efficient for us,” asserts Cucitro.
Cucitro now pauses to expand on how targeting, timing, testing and simplicity have helped the food bank stay on this cost-conscious track.
TG: What are some of the tactics you use to keep your direct mail costs down?
CC: We have learned over the years to mail smarter and to be very specific when targeting … even within our donor base. … We do a lot of segmenting, pulling out special groups and targeting them specifically. And because we mail in pretty good quantity, we do get excellent pricing on our production.
We keep our mailings very simple—we don’t do labels, we don’t do greeting cards, we don’t offer any incentives. The simpler we keep it, the better. The more we explain how a donor’s money is being used, the better. [We typically mail] a one-page, front and back, [letter] with a reply coupon. The size of the envelope changes, but we keep it very simple to get the message out.
TG: You mention targeting; what are some of the segmenting tactics you use?
CC: It depends on the time of year. We raise the majority of our budget October through December. During that time, we may go a little further into our file because people have a tendency to give more during the holiday season. So we may go back three years then, when we only go back two years [for other appeals]. … Sometimes we segment based on if they gave, say, $25 or more; sometimes we’ll go back and if they’ve given anything, we’ll use their name; and sometimes we’ll mail only to a major donor segment. We’ll [also] mail a special message geographically.