Partners in Change
There's a common thread many nonprofit organizations share when it comes to direct mail fundraising appeals—they can fall into the trap of hyping up all the great things their organizations do instead of discussing all the ways the donors help.
The latter approach is the way Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) conveys its message in its fundraising newsletter test campaign. "One of the things we see a lot is that organizations tend to lapse into what we call ‘chest-beating copy,' with stories that are more about them, the nuts and bolts of their organization, versus what the donor is doing with the organization," states Merritt Engel, vice president of Kansas City, Mo.-based direct marketing firm Merrigan & Co., which handles messaging for VFW's direct mail.
Mailed in November 2008 to 99,792 nonmember donors-supporters of VFW-against a calendar mailing, this test went out in a #10 with nothing but the VFW logo and return address on the outer and a window with the recipient's name peeking through. The contents include a lift note, reply card, BRE and the four-page newsletter (Archive code #601-177353-0811).
It's one of the first times VFW has used the newsletter format in a nonmember appeal. "Our newsletters have been very successful with our member audience, and we assumed that it was because they were more involved with the organization," admits Kelly Jones, development manager for VFW. "This was one of the first forays into sending an information-based appeal to a nonmember audience. Our goals were twofold: to increase net revenue per name by reducing the cost of the package and to strengthen ties with donors by providing them additional information about the work being accomplished through their support."
Mission accomplished. The newsletter package produced an average donation more than twice the amount of the calendar package at less than half the cost. As a result, net revenue per name was 127 percent greater for the newsletter appeal. Jones and Engel agree that it was due to the engaging, emotional stories in the newsletter, which was strategically laid out.