Lessons from public television direct mail fundraising

From the mailbox: You can learn interesting things by carefully examining fundraising packs that show up in your mail…

This piece of direct mail fundraising came to us the other day from my local PBS station, KCTS. It’s worth taking a look at with a sharp eye. Please note that while this is my local public TV station, I have no inside knowledge about this piece or the KCTS fundraising program. For all I know, this could be a huge success … or a huge failure. Everything I have to say here is guesswork.

We are not members (though we are squarely in the demographics of public TV membership) — this is a donor acquisition piece.

The Outer envelope

KCTS OE

The Teaser: “Stand with us” is on my list of non-action calls-to-action. Donors don’t give to stand with you, they give to make something happen that matters to them. But: I’ve seen this same teaser from KCTS for a long time. Maybe years. It’s possible they’re blindly using a weak teaser without testing or knowledge, but I doubt it. This probably works in this case.

Colored paper showing through the window: A good thing.

Back of outer envelope

KCTS OE back

Everyone sees the back of your envelope if they decide to open it. It’s space we should use. They’ve used it here to promote the “cause” of public television. (And the Recycled Paper thing? Very good for this audience!)

Main form

KCTS letterfront

That’s right, there’s no letter in this pack. That is usually a big mistake!

But there are exceptions, and this may be one of them. It’s a well-known organization and the ask is pretty close to universally understood. So (I’m guessing) they can basically send a “bill” to prospective donors and do well.

Most of us, not likely. Include a letter unless you’ve tested away from using one.

Return envelope

KCTS RE

This return envelope does two smart things:

  • It uses yellow stock. Using a color other than white for your return envelope is a dependable way to boost response. (In fact, consider other colors of paper for just about anything in your direct mail pack!)
  • It includes a reminder what this whole thing is about. Even a very simple statement like this can keep the giving momentum going for busy and distracted donors. You’re printing on the envelope anyway … say something on it!

If you have inside knowledge about this pack or form the public broadcasting world, tell us about it in the comments below.


Comments

4 responses to “Lessons from public television direct mail fundraising”

  1. We use a close variation of this package in our direct mail acquisition program. It’s been our control in acquisition and lapsed for some time.
    For us, it’s been extensively tested… from the color of the return envelope, to the line printed above the name in the window, to the offer, the ask amounts, the benefits, pink paper vs paper printed to look pink, to the teaser on the front of the envelope. We’re also regularly testing and retesting lists.
    We work with LKA Associates in Portland on our direct mail fundraising, and they manage all the testing strategy and execution for us.
    Thanks for your critique of this package. Maybe we should test a variation with more copy.

  2. We use a close variation of this package in our direct mail acquisition program. It’s been our control in acquisition and lapsed for some time.
    For us, it’s been extensively tested… from the color of the return envelope, to the line printed above the name in the window, to the offer, the ask amounts, the benefits, pink paper vs paper printed to look pink, to the teaser on the front of the envelope. We’re also regularly testing and retesting lists.
    We work with LKA Associates in Portland on our direct mail fundraising, and they manage all the testing strategy and execution for us.
    Thanks for your critique of this package. Maybe we should test a variation with more copy.

  3. Always love that Future Fundraising Now highlights the importance of testing! What works for some won’t work for others, and even proven packages must be rigorously tested and retested to get the most out of direct response. That was definitely the case here, where a teaser with what might have been a one-time opportunity message in the midst of federal funding challenges, was proven through repeated testing to be a long-time winner. You’re definitely right – we know from experience it won’t work for all – but it proves the value of following the data rather than convention. – Becky Chinn, Principal, LKA Fundraising & Communications

  4. Always love that Future Fundraising Now highlights the importance of testing! What works for some won’t work for others, and even proven packages must be rigorously tested and retested to get the most out of direct response. That was definitely the case here, where a teaser with what might have been a one-time opportunity message in the midst of federal funding challenges, was proven through repeated testing to be a long-time winner. You’re definitely right – we know from experience it won’t work for all – but it proves the value of following the data rather than convention. – Becky Chinn, Principal, LKA Fundraising & Communications

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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