St. Mary’s/Westside Food Bank Alliance’s Cucitro on Fundraising
TG: What kinds of direct mail testing do you do?
CC: We have, for the past couple years, in our fall prospecting, tested two different packages [with] two different messages. We’ll split our rental lists down the middle and send half package A and half package B.
Over the last two or three years, we’ve determined that one package always does better. So this year, instead of testing two packages, we tested [personalization]. We used that package and sent half the list a “Dear Community Friend” letter and the second half a message personalized with the donor’s name.
We’ve found so far that the personalized package is drawing not only a bigger percentage response, but also a larger average gift. And it didn’t add much [cost]. We mailed a little over 35,000 [packages] and the cost difference of the personalization for about 17,500 [packages] was pretty minimal. So we are going to more than gain that back. Enough so that we are going to personalize our entire fall prospecting mailing—about 500,000 [packages].
TG: What are some of the challenges you are facing in the mail right now? How are you working to overcome them?
CC: There’s a lot more mail out there trying to get donors’ attention. What we are facing right now [is] that it’s an election year … so there’s a lot of fundraising and campaign mail. We are working hard to target our messages, number one, and then target how they go out and when they go out. We change our calendar on election years, so that our mail does not get lost in all the political mail. We’ll mail a little later, so that it hits after the elections.
TG: What advice would you offer other mailers who are looking for maximum results off minimum expenditures?
CC: Know who their donors are … and how [they] were acquired. … They have to be very wise in their message—the more they can tell donors what good their contributions are doing instead of always just asking for money, the better. Donors like to hear how much their donations are helping an organization.