Writing To Further Animal Welfare

Posts tagged ‘advertising’

Direct Mail

Direct mail was one of the major tools in my box when I worked for The Donkey Sanctuary many years before the recession. (if anyone can remember that far back!) Charities were returning in excess of 5% on a regular basis and one campaign we ran returned just under 12%, which seems amazing now, but at the time I can still remember our trustees not being happy!

Now it’s a very different story and even the big players are struggling to make any more than 3% on DM campaigns. But as a fundraising tool for small charities, DM should not be ruled out.

Although I always advocate complete research into any DM campaign through profiling and mail testing, experience leads me to believe that older people who have not embraced digital technology still like to send and receive letters, and are more likely to respond to a DM campaign. Although the trend is changing, as the  number of “Silver Surfers” is increasing very quickly.

I think the main attraction of DM for a small organisation, is that you can test the market for a relatively small investment to see how well your campaign is going to do and fine tune your mail out for most effect.

I guess the other point to mention before I go into the mechanics of DM, is to remember that not only is DM a fundraising tool, it’s also a great way of getting your core welfare message out to more people and because it is printed rather than on a computer screen, will end up on coffee tables and other places where more people are likely to see and read the material.

The last point is that DM is not a quick fix, its purpose is to build your donor database and works on the premise that the lifetime support of the donors it attracts, will ultimately make its use cost effective.

Ok here are the steps to take

  • Profile your Database
    • Before you go out and rent an expensive list of names to mail, you want to do all you can to find out about your current supporters. By understanding why they support your cause, you have more chance of finding more potential supporters like them.
    • You can profile your database in several ways depending on its size.
      • Through a List Broker
        • If it’s over 5000, then one of the large list broker companies should profile your database for free.
        • To do this you will have to let them have your data (you need to sign an agreement with them preventing the use of the data for any purpose other than profiling)
        • They will match the names on their database with those of millions across the country and provide you with a report identifying your donors characteristics, from their income to the papers they read.
        • They will also let you know how many people they have on their database who match the profile of your supporters and offer you those contacts for a price.
        • Remember you normally do not buy the contact; you rent the list and are only allowed to mail them all once. Any who respond to the mailing and become a supporter, you are allowed to keep.
        • To prevent the re-mailing of the list, the brokers seed the original list with special contacts, if those contact receive more than one mailing, the list broker knows you have mailed the rented list twice!
        • You can expect to pay between £0.20 and £0.50 per name rented, so it is important to get the research stage right.
        • You can find plenty of list brokers willing to rent you lists on the internet, here is an example http://www.charitybase.co.uk/
    • By sponsoring a survey question
      • The best DM campaign I ever ran, was from the result of sponsoring the question, “WOULD YOU DONATE TO A DONKEY SANCTUARY” in a national consumer survey.
      •  Over 50000 people said they would, DS rented the list and we achieved a fantastic result which paid for itself many times over, recruited thousands of new supportersand raised millions in donations.
      • As I have already said, in this current climate this is not likely to happen to the same extent, but if you have the resources this can be a very effective way of finding new prospective supporters.
    • By conducting your own survey
      • Another way of getting the information you need, is to include your own survey in one of your regular mail outs; As long as it is done anonymously most people do not mind sharing information with you, if they believe it will help your cause.
      • Knowing more about your supporter is crucial, not only for DM, but for all types of marketing For instance, if you know that 40% of your supporters read The Daily Mail, you know where to advertise, or if they like gardening etc. Having that information makes where you spend your marketing budget more effective.
  •  Design Contents and Testing
    • The golden rule is, that you are not the person you are marketing for! So don’t make assumptions about what will and won’t work.
    • Having said that there are some lessons I have learnt over the years which are:
      • Keep it Simple
        • Give a clear message and let your reader know what you want
      • Keep it focused
        • People like to be able to identify with the cause they are supporting; appealing for £10’000 to help with your global objectives, will not be as effective as appealing for £3.00 to help with a specific objective. As long as the appeal is worded correctly, a specific appeal does not have to restrict funding to only that use.
      • Perception is more influential then fact
        • In the graphics industry it is just as cost effective to produce large runs of high definition colour material, as it is to run black and white. But the perception of your supporter may be that they don’t want their donations wasted on perceived, expensive colour mail-outs.
        • Do you try and persuade them that it’s just as cost effective to run colour, or just mail what they perceive to be something  that saves you money?
      • Amateur/home-made can be good
        • Today people receive many highly professional mail outs every year, many go straight in the bin before they are opened, but if you received a letter with a handwritten address and a proper stamp, would you ignore it?
        • The great thing about DM is that you can test your  different campaigns to see how they work before completely committing to them, the one thing that should not change is the core content so keep the main story through all the samples
  • Content
    • Gifts
      • Many people hate the idea of a free gift seeing it as a waste of money, but all the campaigns I tested worked better with the gift then without. The gift should be something associated with your cause, some really nice postcards or another low cost item.
    • Stamps
      • The use of real stamps catches the attention of the prospective donor, if you provide a return envelope with a stamp, based on the results of my campaigns more people will respond.
      • The downside is that some of those people will only respond because they don’t want to waste the stamp and they will probably not, become a lifetime supporter.
      • These factors are hard to fit into your campaign plan, but I believe if you can get a prospective supporter to come back to you, at least you have a chance to persuade them to become a lifetime supporter.
    • Testing
      • The following table suggests a possible DM test campaign, with two main approaches, both with the same content.
      • Remember I suggested earlier that you stick with the one core approach, which by the way should be featured through all your PR and Fundraising mediums throughout the campaign period.
      • You will need to code the return envelopes so that you know which campaign is being responded to.
      • Many of the big companies will tell you that you need to mail at least 8000 to get an 80% indicator of returns. This is true but I think what we are looking for here is a good indicator of the best option for you. I mailed 300 of each approach and the results were good enough to hone down the rest of the campaign.
      • What actually happened was that there were a couple that performed as well as each other so I re-tested just those two with larger numbers.
      • Remember that although this is a test, it is not a wasted campaign, you will be recruiting new supporters from every response.
Body Stamp or franked return Gift Number
Modern design high quality colour with printed envelope and return envelope Yes Yes  300
As above No Yes 300
As above No No 300
Traditional Home Spun possibly hand written, black and white or low quality colour inserts with return envelope Yes Yes 300
As above No Yes 300
As above No No 300
  • Once you have completed your test mails, you will know which of the approaches worked the best and you will have a good idea of what percentage returns you can expect from a larger mailing.
  • Just as an indicator, the test mail I suggest above will cost in the region of £3500. You could mail less, but then the validity of the results would be compromised.

If you would like a spreadsheet to help you work out your DM campaign,  leave me a reply with your contact info and I will mail you one with instructions for use.

I hope you found this post useful and as always please ask if you would like any clarification, or you do not agree with this post. None of us learn unless we talk to each other!

“Lose one of many small supporters and you will survive, lose one of few large supporters and you won’t!”

Paul Svendsen

Christmas Appeal

Christmas is a great time to boost your resources and it is vitally important to make the most of this season of good will.

You should have sent out your Christmas newsletter by now if you have things to sell to give people plenty of time to order and for you to dispatch. If you don’t have sales items then you should be thinking of sending in early December by snail mail and a bit later via e-mail so that you can benefit from the Christmas feeling of good will.

Send any stories with Christmas appeal to your local and National media contacts, very often they are looking for fillers and a well-timed press release could result in some free exposure.

There is an argument for sending your sales catalogue early to your warm supporters and following up closer to Christmas via e-mail. If you do not have many e-mail addresses on your data-base then consider asking for them in your snail mail post and thanking them via e-mail before Christmas.

A Happy Christmas from the founder or CEO via e-mail is a nice gesture, there should be no appeal with this one but you will be surprised how many people will send you a donation in return!

Christmas is a time when you can use your less hard-hitting stories focusing on the ah factor rather than concentrating people’s minds on negative aspects. A before and after picture of a bad welfare case works well during the Christmas period concentrating on the benefits of your organisation.

With money tight the more you can use free resources like email and social media to fund-raise the better so if you still rely on good old snail mail and other more expensive communication methods, think about learning the skills you need to make the most of digital media or about recruiting someone who can help you get up to speed.

I hope your Christmas campaigning goes well!

Paul Svendsen


Digital Marketing Part Two

I want to start this post by adding to the last subject in “Digital Marketing Part One” I must admit that I am also on a steep learning curve at the moment, although I have years of experience in charity administration and fundraising, technology has moved so fast in the last few years that there are now many more ways to use the available options.

For instance with regard to web and blog sites, sites like WordPress have become so sophisticated that for many small organisations linked with other social media sites they can be used as your sole digital address. I would be interested to hear from anyone using just a blog site.

I am going to have a go and use a WordPress site for my Consultancy work. Look for the link soon!

OK I wanted to talk about the use of e-mails for charities, although it has virtually replaced “snail mail” for most people, many older people still like to use pen and paper.

Now this can be a problem for charities as communicating by e-mail is not only efficient in terms of time but also in terms of cost. When you consider the financial cost of sending mail-out appeals and the cost to the environment there are very strong reasons to try and convert as many of your communications with supporters as possible to e-mail.

Apart from day to day communication e-mails can also be an effective fundraising tool. I will go into marketing via e-mail in a later post.

You should obtain e-mail addresses at every opportunity but keep snail mail for those people who don’t want to change.  The following are just some examples of ways of acquiring e-mail addresses;

  • request communication vie e-mail in your newsletters
  • Make sure you get the e-mail addresses of  your visitors in your visitors book
  • Add any existing email contacts to your mailing list
  • It may be worth combining a fundraising appeal with an appeal for e-mail addresses to your “snail mail supporters”
  • If you go to events/shows collect e-mail addresses, a small prize competition is a good way to do this
  • In all these approaches stress the savings to the charity
  • You can get very good e-mail software to manage your email communication, the following link will take you to a resource to give you some ideas


I hope you found this post useful and will write again soon, the next post will be looking at Direct Mail






Donations, The Basics

Donations are the life blood of the majority of charities so unless you are a millionaire or have other sources of finance you are going to need help to maintain and grow your organisation. I have seen many charities that have amazing potential but lack the resources to convert all those great ideas into reality.

Donations come if many forms, it could be people’s time, money, services gifts, experiences but the key factor is that it is something given without anything required in return. The challenge is to motivate people to donate and to do this you have to put aside time and resources. It doesn’t matter which of the above types of donation you are seeking, if you get the basics right you will generate them all.

OK so what are the basics?


You have probable heard of the acronym “Keep it Simple Stupid” and you should remember this at all times. Marketing is not rocket science although some of the marketing companies would have us believe that it is, there are awards out there for the best advert, the best designed direct mail campaign and so on, I have been to directors meeting where the CEO,s of large charities proudly produced there latest full colour newsletters, whilst they may impress each other I doubt that many supporters will be impressed, the majority of supporters I have talked to want to see as little of their money as possible spent on marketing and as much as possible on the core activity. So it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look slick, it’s what you are doing with your supporter’s money that’s important.

I can remember an article a few years ago now in one of the leading charity magazines was comparing direct mail campaigns including one I was running for The Donkey Sanctuary, my campaign was branded, “amateur, and homespun” whilst the others received glowing reviews. I didn’t complain because the homespun approach returned over 12% response rate against an average of the time of around 3%. That SIMPLE direct mail campaign recruited over 50000 new supporters in four years and raised millions of pounds in donations.

 Pictures speak a thousand words (or a million for the right one!) 

Hope had her ears hacked off by her drunk owner

Always carry a camera with you when you are on welfare missions or in fact at all times, that one picture that portrays the nature of your work will be worth more than anything else and could launch   the campaign that puts your organisation on the welfare map and brings in those much-needed funds. Believe me you never have enough good usable pictures so take as many as you can whenever you can. After all with digital technology it doesn’t cost anything!

Exposure = Confidence = Donations

The more  the name of your organisation is seen by the public the more they will have confidence and support your work, very few people will donate on seeing something for the first time so it’s important to build up your image in stages, blowing your whole advertising budget on a media campaign can be a terribly costly mistake. You need to put your stories out there in the free media as much as possible and when you have a really good coverage than back it up with your marketing campaign. To do this you need to build up a rapport with your local journalists, every week you should be planning to send out a press release, if you are planning a rescue or other activity that might be of interest to the public then let the press, television, radio know, they may just be looking for a story and if they bite it could be fantastic for you.

Digital Media

Although there is a lot of competition out there the internet is a very powerful fundraising tool, the secret is converting those Facebook, Website and Blog supporters to donators. I used the Internet in the project in Spain and Italy with good success. Digital is an idea opening fundraising strategy as you can reach a wide audience with relatively low investment.

The value of a diverse supporter Base

I have seen quite a few charities get into trouble because they relied on just a few major donors, large donations whilst always fantastic news can also cause an organisation to grow beyond their means in the longer term. Having many smaller value supporters whilst being more time-consuming provide security for the future. With very good charity databases on the market, many free of charge up to a certain level it is much easier now to look after many supporters and provide them with the kind of service that will reward the organisation with a lifetime of support. Remember also that a lifelong supporter is also likely to leave a legacy! Building a database of loyal supporters is a hard task but if done correctly will ensure the success of the charity for the future.

Grants and Company Sponsorship

There are grant making trusts and companies out there with budgets available for charitable use,  all you have to do is convinces them that your organisation is the one they should support! I have applied for and grants and been successful in getting them.

Paid Marketing Campaigns

TV adverts, radio, newspapers, direct mail, magazines, leaflet drops, the list goes on and on. You can easily spend a fortune and get very little in return but… if you get all your other pieces in place all these mediums can be very effective,. There are also ways of minimising the costs for charities.

To Summarise

Ok I know I have not provided much detail here but this post is just about the basics, to bring the above ramblings to a point, the basics of good fundraising are;

to remember KISS at all times, collect as much photographic material about your project as you can, use every free method of PR at every opportunity to build your organisations public profile, use digital media to maximum effect, build a database of supporters and look after them, approach grant making trusts and businesses for support, launch paid for marketing campaigns only when your profile is high and get special charity deals, read this blog to find out the details

I hope you found this post helpful and look out for further posts where I will be providing much more information about the subjects touched on above.

Paul Svendsen

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