Friday, 6 March 2015

4 Ways that Direct Mail is still the cat's pyjamas

Scope's recent foster appeal teamed programme and fundraising asks
I have a secret love and its name is Direct Mail.

This may be odd in someone who has, for more than a decade, specialised in Major Gifts and Capital Appeal Fundraising but nevertheless Direct Mail has lurked there flirting around the edges of my consciousness with its teaser envelopes and delicious data insight.

That’s why I love Direct Mail after all: the heady blend of data analysis, creativity and testing. I mean how often do you get to test major gifts? The numbers you are dealing with are so small it is challenging to conduct meaningful data analysis (note I say challenging, not impossible – the smart cookies at Edinburgh, LSE and Manchester are doing some very interesting work in this area).

1)    Data analysis: YUM!

Show me the fundraising director who doesn’t love seeing data analysis and I’ll show you a pink unicorn floating on a cloud constituted entirely of noodles and ambrosia. They don’t exist (data-hating fundraising directors, not unicorns obviously).

In the last year my charity has been able to cut its DM costs and improve its response rate simply by employing more sophisticated data analysis and better segmentation. What’s not to love?

2)    Creativity: aaaaaah.

And then there’s the creativity – whether that means working with a crazy clever agency to come up with something which carves out and presents your charity’s beating heart to your donors, or drawing deep from within yourself to write the Best Letter In The World. There is nothing like DM to summon up the muses.

Fundraising is all marrying science with creativity to help connect your donors to your cause. Nowhere is this better captured than within DM.

There are no smoke and mirrors. Unlike some areas of fundraising, DM has been tested and tested again. DM is built on a solid basis of well understood best practice. It’s important to know this and to use it: supplying that evidence can prevent your creatively and scientifically crafted DM from hijacked by people who don’t like it – and are not the target audience.

4) Feeling the love

And then there is the thrill of anticipation and the glory of response. Major Gifts fundraisers constantly teeter on the edge of euphoria and despair depending on whether a huge donation to their cause is – or isn’t – secured. DM has its own emotional rollercoaster: from the moment sign it off (you can only proof read so many times after all) to the moment the first response hits you are caught on the horns of anxiety.

Will the donor see what you see? Does the story capture the cause? Oh GOD, you didn’t mix up the personalisation data did you (the fundraising equivalent about worrying you have left the iron on)?

And when the response kicks in and it’s good? JOY JOY JOY! Plus there are those little notes that come in with DM providing a direct connection the people who share your passion for your cause.

It’s a beautiful moment.

So I love DM.

And my crush of the moment (DM from my own charity aside, of course) is the appeal from Scope featured at the top of the post. Why? 

Because it combines a programme message (we need more foster carers) with a fundraising message (help us support this valuable programme) – thus showing the impact of each donation with real power. Kudos to Scope.

Want to create your own amazing Direct Mail?

Join the world famous Adrian Salmon (the University of Leeds) and the fabulously creative Aline Reed (Blue Frog) at the Institute of Fundraising Scotland’s Direct Mail Day on 19 March 2015 in Edinburgh. It’s set to be phenomenal.  
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