2015 December 8th
Olive Cook couldn't say no. The media blamed her suicide earlier this year on charities for bombarding her with appeals to the point where she just couldn't cope any more. There were seventeen direct debits going out of her bank account every month. I'm sure that if the charities had been aware of her circumstances they would have stopped mailing her immediately, but of course they didn't.
Charities cannot be expected to know the individual circumstances of every person they are writing to asking for donations, but if we keep Olive Cook in mind every time we write, that can only be a good thing can't it?
Formulating a 'donor promise' in which you tell your supporters exactly what you will or won't do with their details and how you will treat them is a start. If you don't intend to swap or sell their details to other organisations, let them know. I recently wrote one of these for a new client and added this: 'We may occasionally contact you to ask for donations to help our work, but we will not expect you to donate if you are not in a position to do so.'
For too long we have treated supporters like 'cash cows'. It's high time we began treating them like humans.
2015 November 5th
THE SMALL PRINT JUST GOT BIGGER
We fundraisers are living in interesting times – with 'opt in' fast becoming a reality, those little DPA tickboxes on charity cold mail donation forms with wording set in six point will soon become a thing of the past.
The RNLI have firmly and bravely nailed their colours to their mast and embraced opt in, despite calculating that they will lose many millions of pounds in donations over the next five years.
This is probably the death knell of cold mail as a recruitment method – the pool of names out there will get smaller and smaller. After all, you might opt in to receive communication for the charity you're giving to, but how many people would opt in to allowing their names to be swapped or sold to other charities?
Broadcast, Press ads, inserts and doordrops will predominate – and in print channels the opt in wording will no longer be set in six point. We'll have to sell the benefits to the donor of opting in, rather than hide the benefits of opting out. Is that such a bad thing?
2014 July 4th
LESSONS LEARNED: 'The leaflet'
How many charities have leaflets in their cold mail packs? On the face of it it's a logical thing to do, giving the reader information about your organisation and all the great work it does, to add substance and respectability to the fundraising ask. It's seen by some fundraisers as an integral part of a mailing.
To those of you who do have a leaflet as part of your cold control mailpack, I'd like to say "Test it without the leaflet!" I've done so on a number of occasions and the result has been the same: increased response rate and of course, RoI.
Why so? Well I don't know – it's one of those questions where the answer isn't in a results spreadsheet. I suspect it's because the reader isn't diverted away from the letter and donation form. Or maybe they look inside the pack and think 'there's a lot in here – I'll look at it later' (and as you know, you'll have lost them).
Challenge the norm – test it on your next cold mail campaign and see if it works for you.
2014 June 29th
LESSONS LEARNED: Charity DM envelopes
Does it go straight in the recycling? Or does it get opened? That's why the outer envelope is the most important part of a fundraising DM appeal. But it's often not given the thought it deserves. So how can we ensure that it does get opened?
Many organisations go down the plain route. Nothing on it except the postage impression and a return address. Nothing wrong with that – after all, people will want to know what's inside won't they? So they will have to open it. Apart from that growing band who know what a mass mailing postage impression looks like. But they'll probably open it anyway. And maybe feel like they've been conned. They need to be warmed up a little. I remember a test Oxfam ran on their cold mail control quite a few years back. It came in a plain envelope, but they ran a test with the Oxfam logo on the envelope it and that beat the plain control. Interesting. (Well if you're in charity DM it is – but maybe not a conversation starter on a first date...)
Sometimes the envelope is treated like a billboard with an eye-catching image and clever headline (it's remarkable how many DM creative people yearn to work in 'proper' advertising) – a stand alone message which may increase awareness (minimally) but will not necessarily lead to it being opened. If an envelope has anything on it, it must be the beginning or part of the fundraising 'story' and make people want to open it to see what happens next... or better still to help. If you've got a great proposition (remember, from the donor's point of view!), you should shout about it on the envelope. WaterAid's long-running cold control 'Give water, give life, give £2 a month' is a case in point.
Inside – Open to find out more – Enclosed. You need to direct your prospect, remind them that they're holding an envelope and that it needs to be opened. Use a large window to reveal more of the contents. Even part of an image that's printed next to the address field on the letter can increase 'openability'.
Remember that the envelope is part of the communication. A few years ago Royal Mail introduced pricing in proportion, which meant that anything larger than a C5 envelope would cost more to post. Various pony-tailed creative directors wailed in the industry press that this 'marked the death of creativity in direct marketing'. But restrictions fire up creativity. I started thinking about the elements of a charity DM pack differently – and for a job for Christian Aid I designed a C4 pack, printing the appeal –including the letter and donation 'shopping list' items on the envelope with just an A4 donation form and reply envelope inside. The large size cost more to post, but this was offset by 'doormat presence' and fewer bits of paper inside. It worked and I've been flogging this (still live) horse ever since. You can see a recent pack I created for BUAV using long copy on an outer envelope here.
Why does it work? That's the thing I love about DM – you know what works – or doesn't, but you can only make educated guesses as to why. Well it's different (not many envelopes are packed with copy). It's large and stands out from the crowd. But I think the main reason is because the fundraising story has been told and the reader has already engaged with what you're asking them to do – before they've even opened the envelope. And if it's been done well enough, they'll respond. Don't ignore your outer envelopes – make them a gateway, not a barrier.
2014 June 24th
The website you're looking at now is officially live. Spent a few weeks putting it together, then crafting and fine tuning. Hope you're enjoying it!
2014 May 27
New business cards have arrived in time for a meeting with Blue Cross next week, and of course the IoF conference in July - a big thank you to red river solutions who have done a lovely job on the printing and die cutting...
2014 Apr 8
Just had a call from SolarAid, a fantastic charity which I've supported in the past. They've just sold their one millionth solar lamp in Africa and they were calling me just to say thank you. No ask - just a thank you. Well they didn't need to ask because I gave again over the phone unprompted and I suspect many other supporters did too. 5 minutes later I got a nice email thank you for the donation. It's an excellent way to fundraise over the phone - don't ask, just thank!
2014 Apr 7
Lovely visit to The Mayhew Animal Home in Kensal Green to see the residents, including some huge and vocal ginger cats - and to pick up a brief for some recruitment work for them. I'm going to enjoy this!
2014 Mar 21
At a cafe in painfully hip Hoxton, waiting for a long overdue catchup with the lovely Suzanne Lewis from edm media. Everyone here has apple laptops (well, they would wouldn't they?) Reminds me that my new mac pro, macbook and iphone are due for delivery next week
2014 Mar 5
Finally getting round to building my website, (the one you're looking at right now) to replace my wordpress 'blog site' which I haven't updated since I don't know when. I shall soon have my very own 'electric internet brochure'...
2014 Feb 25
Good meeting with one of my clients in London yesterday – they've asked me to create all the materials for their first foray into F2F...
2014 Feb 24
Blame for NHS data cock-up rightly directed at the creative treatment of the leaflet sent to people 'explaining' what the NHS wants to do with their data. Mind you, I suspect the brief to the agency was "Design a leaflet that people will ignore." If so, it was an excellent piece of work.