Over the past six months, I have been keeping a box of the direct mail solicitations that come to me here in Charlotte. After 6 months of diligence, I have some startling results to report to you. I began with a shoebox and ended up with a postal service tub of mail. My hope is that you share this article with everyone you know in the hopes that behaviors will change.
It seems that direct mail is alive at some organizations, although the ROI on direct mail continues to fall. Remember it is 7 times more expensive to obtain a new donor than it is to keep the one you already have- adjust 10% of your acquisition budget into donor relations to boost retention and you won’t regret the decision!
In those 6 months, I received 81 direct mail solicitations. 19 of those appeals were from organizations that I had never supported before, meaning they bought my name from a list clearinghouse or another organization. This frustrates me beyond repair, especially since it is in such direct violation of the Donor Bill of Rights.
I received 53 solicitations in the dreaded and boring #10 envelope, 18 solicitations were in non-standard sized envelopes. 45 of my solicitations came in window envelopes. 4 had errors in spelling of my name or address. 6 of the appeals claimed to have “emergency or urgent” appeals enclosed.
I was sent 26 solicitations with free gifts enclosed, from notepads to Christ medals to calendars to 15 pages of address labels in all shapes and sizes. SIGH.
26 were sent with live stamps and 55 used non-profit postage bulk mail.
Let’s look at the contents:
23 letters addressed me as “friend” or didn’t use my name even though it was on the outer envelope- do they just not care?
27 used my formal name of Ms. Wester
18 of them used my first name of Lynne
And 11 used the weird combo of first and last name- which read, Dear Lynne Wester,
The letters varied in length-
17 one page letters
47 two page letters
15 four or more page letters with the longest being 8 pages. WOW.
67 of their appeals asked for a specific amount, 16 did not.
On the reply devices, only 6 offered me a monthly giving option.
This organization had the most random amounts- what will $3.65 really do? It’s not a monthly gift, just a one time contribution. This makes me worried for them as an organization. They were also one of the ones that purchased my name and address.
I made a gift to St. Jude, by FAR the worst offender in address labels and in order to thank me, they RE SOLICITED ME- Check out the appalling note here- and also on the thank you note, they referred to me as “friend” I won’t be giving to them again.
Then finally I received two “certificates” of generosity. Both BEFORE I made my gifts. Uhm, yeah, not so much. These don’t inspire me to make a gift nor feel obligated to the organization. Here they are:
So what have we learned from all of this? It’s that the status quo is in full effect at organizations. 81 pieces of mail later and I wasn’t truly inspired by any of them. How are we going to cause change to happen in our organizations when we accept this as the norm? I ask you to help me stop the madness! Send in your pieces, let me know what you’re seeing and who is doing a great job, they deserve to be rewarded. We CAN do better and we MUST do better!
I look forward to a healthy debate.