How to give your donors a piece of the real world

Lift Monday: A series about the art and science of “Lifts” in direct mail fundraising.

Want to reach donors in a deeper way than just putting words in front of them?

Give them a “souvenir.”

Here’s what I mean:

Swenys

I bought this old-fashioned bar of lemon soap. I carefully removed the paper package, took out the soap and then wrapped a piece of styrofoam in it and put the whole thing in a picture frame. It hangs on the living room wall.

Am I weird or something? Who displays a bar of soap on their wall?

I’m probably not the only one who has done this.

You see, Sweny is a chemist (pharmacy) in Dublin that plays a tiny role in the great novel Ulysses by James Joyce. The main character, Leopold Bloom, buys a bar of lemon soap there.

Sweny was a real place when the book was written (1914). And it’s still there. It’s a bookstore now, but all day, people stop in and buy lemon soap (and probably a book or two).

Sweny’s Lemon Soap is one of the few physical souvenirs you can get from the world of fiction. Buying it from the same store is part of the magic.

There’s a real thrill to it. It takes something from a book that’s so real in my imagination and gives me something I can see and touch.

This connection phenomenon may explain the power of “lifts” in direct mail fundraising.

I once received a direct mail piece from a children’s hospital that contained two little white woven tubes with closed ends — just the size to fit snugly on my finger. They were socks for premature infants. The size was almost shocking — that a human being could be that small.

Like the bar of Sweny’s lemon soap, those tiny socks were a vivid piece of reality that got my attention. In my brain that day, the idea of what premature infants (and their families) face in their first few weeks moved instantly from an abstraction to a powerful reality. I was much more invested in the situation that I ever had been before.

Lifts are like that. They are added to a direct mail pack to lift response.

And they work, usually.

In fact, the strangest thing about lifts is this: The more, the better. The cost of adding them is a limit to that. This is why most (but not all!) lifts are things that can be printed on paper.

When you are creating any piece of fundraising direct mail, you should at least consider adding a lift of some kind. Maybe more than one!

Liftmonday

Like anything else in fundraising, lifts are not magic. Just throwing any old thing in an envelope doesn’t necessarily lift response; to do that, it has to be on-point and interesting to the donor.

And a brochure is not a lift — because brochures almost never lift response.

Read the other Lift Monday posts

If you have any questions or thoughts about lifts — or if you have any interesting lifts to share — I’d love to hear from you!


Comments

6 responses to “How to give your donors a piece of the real world”

  1. Nicole Kitson Avatar
    Nicole Kitson

    OOh, I love this topic and look forward to reading more in the coming weeks. We have a fairly premium heavy direct mail program but it works well for us. One question I have is should items that you include be branded for your charity. For instance, does a branded notepad work better than an item that is more generic. Or do pretty floral address labels work better than branded ones.

  2. Nicole Kitson Avatar
    Nicole Kitson

    OOh, I love this topic and look forward to reading more in the coming weeks. We have a fairly premium heavy direct mail program but it works well for us. One question I have is should items that you include be branded for your charity. For instance, does a branded notepad work better than an item that is more generic. Or do pretty floral address labels work better than branded ones.

  3. Good question, Nicole. There will be a post later in the series specifically on premiums/freemiums, but my short answer to your question is in my experience “pretty” premiums outperform branded ones almost always. There are exceptions, so it’s worth testing to know for sure.

  4. Good question, Nicole. There will be a post later in the series specifically on premiums/freemiums, but my short answer to your question is in my experience “pretty” premiums outperform branded ones almost always. There are exceptions, so it’s worth testing to know for sure.

  5. Nicole Kitson Avatar
    Nicole Kitson

    Thank you! Loving this series about lifts.

  6. Nicole Kitson Avatar
    Nicole Kitson

    Thank you! Loving this series about lifts.

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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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