The Park People's Janet Tierney on GreenVue Recyclable Mailers
Eco-friendly plastic mail turned out not to be an oxymoron for The Park People, Friends of Milwaukee County Parks, which sent out the recyclable direct mail for an event commemorating its 30th anniversary. The nonprofit environmental group mailed thousands of invitations for its third annual Green Gala on GreenVue, a new product from the custom mail company ShipShapes of Park Forest Ill.
As if to punctuate the point that the translucent postcard composed of postconsumer, recycled plastic soda bottles was a green direct mail alternative, The Park People placed the picture of a colorful fall tree front and center on the invitation it mailed to 550 members and 2,650 prospects. As of Nov. 6, 240 recipients had registered for the $100 per person tickets to the Nov. 8 fundraiser.
Janet Tierney, Park People executive director, says not only were people thrilled about getting the recyclable mail, but the 3,200 recipients of the registration card for the organization's biggest fundraiser of the year started telling their friends about the invitation.
Target Marketing: How often has Park People sent out direct mail during its 30-year existence?
Janet Tierney: I would say, on average, we've sent out six to eight pieces a year.
TM: Are they usually eco-friendly?
JT: Over the last two years they have been.
TM: What other channels did you use for the gala campaign?
JT: Radio advertising and Internet advertising. ... We do reach an older demographic. We did probably have about 20 people that purchased tickets through our Web site, and the rest have included the 100 estimate[d] phone calls that we received [from recipients who wanted to know more about the mailer]. They went to the Web site, didn't feel comfortable buying, and then they called and did their order over the phone.
TM: When recipients asked about the mailer, what did Park People tell them?
JT: Well, we explained to them that it was an invitation to the gala, because a typical invitation to a fundraising event of this type includes a reply card with a response envelope. So they didn't quite understand that we'd shifted the format. But as soon as I said that [the mailings were made from] recycled lemon-lime soda bottles, people were so excited about what the piece itself was that they were less concerned with the fact that we had shifted the format on them. And they were really excited to put them up, actually. I had people call me and tell me, "I've got it on my refrigerator," which is great, because then they're saving the date for us. ... I have had a couple people try to smell them, thinking that they were lemon-lime scented, before they caught on.
TM: At first, did recipients have a visceral reaction to getting direct mail from an eco-friendly organization? Especially, what was their first reaction to seeing a picture of a tree on a green piece of plastic?
JT: I think they were intrigued. Of the people that I've personally handed these to—because we have extras printed up in our office—they have really been excited. And they immediately begin thinking of us as an eco-friendly organization, as compared to all the paper mail that they get in their mailboxes everyday.
TM: Do you think this direct mail helped increase gala registration?
JT: I think that it did increase registration, although marginally. The biggest thing that it did for us is [raise our profile, because] we are a 30-year old organization that no one has ever heard of. Despite the fact that we have a very large budget, we're a nonprofit organization, we're very active in the community—we have, for our first 30 years, been pretty quiet about what we do. And this mailing really made people say, "Who are the Parks People?" And it drove them to our Web site to learn more about us and to see what we're doing. I expect the invitation to not only generate revenue for our fundraising gala, but also to put us in the minds of people when they're thinking of making just general donations. And, in addition to receiving RSVPs for this event, we've also had people call and ask how they can just donate directly. ... It's very definitely created a buzz about who we are and what we do.