U.S. Fund for UNICEF's Helene Vallone on Direct Mail Success in a Tough Economy
It's difficult not to hear about mail volume decreasing and the USPS taking a serious blow to the ribs; information of this nature populates news stories, blog posts and sometimes watercooler discussions—depending on in which office the particular watercooler is located. But it's not doom and gloom for everyone, especially those direct marketers who have taken the direct mail channel by the horns and used it to their advantage.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is one of those savvy direct marketers, optimizing its direct mail program to reach the more than 4 million donors in its database. Target Marketing took some time to discuss the nonprofit’s direct mail success with Helene Vallone, its vice president of direct and interactive marketing.
Target Marketing: How does the direct mail channel support the U.S. Fund for UNICEF's marketing goals?
Helene Vallone: The channel is the large mass advertiser for the Fund. [More than] 20 million pieces are mailed annually, all uniformly branded with cohesive messaging on supporting the mission of the organization.
TM: What percentage of your donations come from direct mail?
HV: Twenty-nine percent of donations come through direct mail channels.
TM: What are the reasons for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF's success with direct mail?
HV: The success of the program is driven by innovative thinking, especially in a tough economy. The [direct mail] program has felt the challenges in the external environment and [has] strategize[d] accordingly, focusing on investments that have the highest ROI. Working cross-functionally and with the support of the entire organization, this has allowed the program to continue to deliver significant revenue.
TM: How has your direct mail strategy changed in the past couple of years?
HV: The strategy over time has changed from mass marketing to becoming increasingly targeted toward acquiring a more committed, longer-term value donor to our mission. We have increased the use of personalization tactics and strategies that deepen the relationship with the donor.
TM: Have you integrated your direct mail campaigns with other media (paid search, Web, e-mail, etc.) to boost overall effectiveness?
HV: Over the past years we have integrated multiple channels in marketing to the donors. In all our direct mail, we cross-promote a variety of support opportunities, allowing the donors to interact with our organization in the method that they prefer. Our data shows that donors who are interacting with us via multiple channels and programs are retaining at a higher rate. Our focus in the upcoming years is to continue to further integrate and strengthen the donor relationships.
TM: Is it getting tougher to spend on direct mail versus other media?
HV: Investments in direct mail have become more costly year after year, especially with the rising cost of postage. Organizations need to consider the return on investment, in the short and longer term, and decide their most comfortable level of spend.