Long ago, when dinosaurs roamed … the early 1990s, we could mint money by sending donors a hard card — a credit-card weight card with the donor’s name, membership number and year embossed.
The lock was mailing them in a brown Kraft envelope, no organization name, some kind of official stamp, ideally first class. And no, the card did NOT show through a window.
These were how people received their new credit card each year. They were opened without fail. And they got terrific response for annual renewals.
These have largely disappeared over the years, or at least I don’t see them often. Cost a big issue. Creating and stamping these by individual is indeed pricey, and seemed to get more costly each year.
I suspect that the technique was also just forgotten. New people come into the fundraising field who don’t know this work and don’t want to test it because of the cost. Plus someone higher up KNOWS they would never work, donor’s would scoff or think them a waste of money.
Other recurring concerns had to do with renewal term. These are great if everyone’s on an annual renewal cycle. But many organizations moved to mailing acquisition quarterly or even more often. So not all donors were due for renewal at one time.
Some groups have been troubled with the concept of “membership” for their donors. Just not comfortable with the term. Or no benefits of membership = no membership.
All these were nicely navigated in a package I just received from Save the Children. Things to note and perhaps learn from:
– Closed-face carrier. Very personal look and feel. On the flap it says “2011 ANNUAL FUND” so it tips the topic there. But still very personal.
– Live first-class stamp. Gets delivered on time and gets recipient attention. This was not cancelled, so probably dropped pre-sort. I’d mailer-cancel to further the personal/official look.
– Card tipped on to the top right corner of the letter. It not as quite as heavy as a credit card, and not heavy enough to make it really clearly “lumpy” when holding the envelope. But it certainly weighs down the letter corner and demands notice and credibility.
Light-weight cards can work. Laminating and perfing a card in the corner of the reply card can work. Save the Children has a large enough donor file that the heavier card gets affordable.
– The card is NOT a Membership Card but instead a “2011 SUPPORTER” Card. Fine. I’ll buy that. My name is embossed, as is my “Donor ID” and, a very nice touch: “Supporter Since XXXX”, reminding me that I’ve been giving a while.
– The letter is largely assumptive … thanking me for past supporter and asking me to continue, all good. The ask is for an “Annual Fund” gift, which raises a few issues groups struggle with.
In my experience, asking for an Annual Gift works pretty much like a membership renewal. People will give sort of automatically. But this works best with people who think of themselves as members or as people who give an annual gift.
I’ve not given to an annual fund for STC. I’ve given to the organization quite a few times, but these have been in response to appeals related to relief efforts or fairly well defined programs. I’d rather give to Save the Children than to any “Fund.” But the letter does a great job of explaining use of funds, so that shouldn’t get in my way. But I’m not a donor who’s set up to respond automatically to any annual appeal.
None of these would argue against Save the Children approaching me in this way. I’ve given multiple times in reasonably good amounts. I have all the Recency Frequency and Monetary to justify sending me most any appeal. So they’re on target in all respects.
– With one thing they’re doing, I wish I could track results: They ask for a one-time gift, MRC/HPC (which happen to be the same), 1.5X, 2X, and Other. Then they have a section where they ask me to “sponsor a child for $18 a month”. They quickly disclaim that donations are not given to “my sponsored child” but combined with other gifts to help “projects that benefit many children in the communities receiving sponsorship funding.”
So they’re trying to sign me up for monthly giving. That’s great, and many organizations are trying to move in that direction as fast as they can. The shortfalls in this instance are my slight confusion with child sponsorship, plus not knowing how this might work until I turn over the reply form and read copy around the credit card charge. Worth a shot, though, and I hope they sign up some monthly donors.
From all I hear, though, monthly donors are best acquired with mail that asks very specifically for that kind of giving. Or by phone. More on this here.