Sometimes, The Less Said, The Better
In his recent blog, “The Slow and Boring Path: 7 uninteresting ways to achieve success in fundraising,” Jeff Brooks tells us that “corny, old fashioned, totally unsexy direct mail is still the lifeblood of fundraising,” and advises us not to let the fact that it’s “old hat” chase us away from the “single most powerful donor-engagement tool in existence.” I couldn’t agree more, but deciding what to put in the envelope is always a challenge for me.
Earlier this week, having just wrapped Fix, Rattle & Roll, the benefit that accounts for about a third of our non-fee income, I put together the year-end fundraising calendar for our mobile spay/neuter program. We have one small event in early December. Invitations will go out the last week in October. We plan to send our year-end direct mail appeal right after Thanksgiving and support both efforts with a series of e-blasts. All good.
Now I just have to figure out what will inspire our donors to open their checkbooks one more time in 2010. Following Brooks’ advice that “good fundraising decisions come from staring at spreadsheets, asking pedestrian questions and internalizing a mass of quantitative facts,” I took a hard look at our appeal history over the past three years. Based only on our admittedly small sample, this is what I learned:
Less Is More. Our very simple greeting card appeals featuring photographs or cartoons and very little copy have outperformed letters by as much as 151%. Our most successful year-end appeal was this simple holiday card from our cartoon mascots Zip and Snip with a gift envelope enclosed. Now, admittedly, that appeal was sent out in 2007 when the economy was much stronger than it is now, but the difference in response to that versus the year-end letter we sent last December (believing that we needed to hit harder because of the flailing economy) was so dramatic that I can’t help believing we’re on to something.Add the fact that our most successful appeal ever was the one featuring Kimo the “throw-away dog,” followed closely by a Valentine card featuring two cats smooching and the simple message “Keep the love…Lose the litters,” and my path seems clear. But I’d love to know what works for you.
In the meantime, it’s time to pull in the brain trust – and quickly, since Jeff also warns that “projects collapse when deadlines are blown,” and advises us to “set reasonable deadlines, and then fanatically keep them.” My very reasonable deadline for getting this piece to the designer is just one month away. Stay tuned.