Tip #1: Debunking List Management 

In this special blog series, we will discuss effective ways you can optimize direct mail programs in a post-pandemic world and beyond.

Direct mail is known to be an efficient and engaging channel that helps retain and acquire donors in the fundraising world. But has coronavirus changed its credibility?

The answer may pleasantly surprise you. According to the USPS Market Research and Insights Report, 65% of those surveyed stated that receiving mail lifts their spirits, with 54% of respondents stating that mail helped them feel more connected.

You may be thinking, “Great! Sign me up.” But it’s a little more complicated than that.

In our internal May 2020 BCG Connect client survey, 100% of respondents described their organizations as understaffed. Additionally, 99% of respondents indicated that they do not have the time or resources to focus on fundraising campaigns to their desired extent.

At the best of times, fundraising campaigns require careful planning and copious amounts of attention and detail orientation to yield results. The most successful direct mail campaigns are the ones that are the most highly targeted. In order to develop a customized, engaging direct mail piece, you have to perfect one key element: proper list management. List management can single-handedly make or break your campaign.

The good news is that direct mail is resonating with donors and prospects. The bad news is that many organizations are overwhelmed and understaffed. So, what action should organizations take to run a highly targeted direct mail campaign without straining their already limited resources?

The answer: outsourcing. Utilizing a partner who understands the intricacies of list management can ease the stress of your campaign, increase your bandwidth, and help you meet your fundraising goals.

Direct mail is reaching audiences in meaningful ways during these unprecedented times. It’s more important now than ever to analyze your list in order to optimize it and run a profitable campaign.

What do you think about our first tip in this “Optimizing Direct Mail Programs: Post-Pandemic and Beyond” series? We’d love to hear your feedback. Click here to leave us a comment.

Sources:

Target Marketing

2 = USPS Market Research and Insights

BCG Connect is a steadfast supporter and advocate of Friends of the Children-Boston (Friends-Boston), a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through salaried, professional mentoring. To achieve this, Friends-Boston pro-actively identifies kindergartners who possess untapped limitless potential but face the most significant barriers to future success. They then relentlessly dedicate their resources to them for the child’s entire school aged years – kindergarten through graduation, no matter what. That’s 12+ years!

One of BCG’s most recent collaborations with Friends of the Children was their 2019 Milestone Report. The challenge was to create an inviting and informative report that everyone wanted to read. It was important to understand that these readers were already supporters, so the message had to be tailored to them. Friends of the Children also stressed their desire for this report to have a contemporary feel, complete with story-like infographics and interesting data visualization.

Some of the areas highlighted to achieve this can be applied universally.

Here are 3 focus areas for engaging annual reports:

  • Understand the organization’s mission

An organization’s mission statement is its lifeblood, and they must find meaningful ways for donors to contribute to that mission. It is essential to understand, highlight, and appreciate this in order to convey its message successfully.

  • Mention successes and failures

It’s important to highlight the organization’s progress, which includes the good, the bad, and everything in between. Executive Director of Friends of the Children, Yi-Chin Chen beautifully expresses this as the ability to “Fail Louder” in future endeavors.

  • Communicate data visually

Data is one of the most compelling engagement tools in fundraising, as donors want to know how their gift has impacted an organization. It’s often difficult to translate these stats into an eye-catching format. Stick to simple numbers, appropriate chart types, and consistent formatting.

One recipient of the 2019 Annual Report shared:

“I just received the 2019 milestone report in the mail – congratulations on a really beautiful publication. I immediately wanted to read it and found it really engaging and inspiring. I love how it’s on-brand, authentic, compelling, and provides easy ways to see how anyone in the community might engage.”

-Anonymous recipient

You can view the Friends of the Children 2019 Annual Report here.

For more information on how BCG Connect can create similar projects for you, contact us today.

The air is getting crisp outside. The leaves are getting crunchier. School bus lights flash longer waiting for students to scurry aboard. This could only mean one thing – fall is here. These signs of fall should ignite the fundraiser in you to spark your donors to give. How should you do that? Well first, it starts with a strong strategic annual giving plan.

By now, most fundraisers have a strategic annual giving plan, but there is always time to make adjustments and improvements.

Strengthen your annual giving plan by asking yourself these questions:

  • How does this year’s annual giving plan differ from our plan last year? Regardless of if you had the best year yet, or a year that needs improvement, you should always try to do something a little different.
    • Yes, if you had the best year to date, continue doing what you’re doing. However, what’s next? How can you keep that stamina up? It’s all about thinking ahead and continuing to have that donor-mindset at the forefront of your initiatives.
    • If you had a year that needs major improvement, try something completely new – do some testing and analysis and determine what had the best results. For example, maybe it was a self-mailer over an 8.5×11″ letter, a Facebook ad over a LinkedIn ad, a phone call over an email. Whatever it may be, it’s important to analyze what your donors respond to. Keep in mind that it can take multiple touchpoints before a donor takes action. Ensure that you are communicating with them on all channels to reach them where they are.
  • Did we draft a schedule for initiatives this year? Laying out what the initiative is, who will be targeted, what the goal is, and the timeframe of execution is critical to your team’s success. It not only confirms that everyone is on the same page, but it also helps you stay on track with initiatives. Sometimes, things change. Having a schedule helps you see what adjustments might need to be made if something arises. This central resources can allow your team to be concise, consistent, and focused.
  • How did we use personalization in appeals? Donors expect a personal touch now more than ever. How did you use variable data to personalize the ask? How was the data segmented to properly target the right people with the right message? Instead of sending everyone the same message with the same imagery, try to show donors that you know what’s important to them. If the donor connects with the institution on a personal level, they will be more inclined to donate because they start building an affinity to it.

Fundraising and building relationships take a lot of time and valuable resources. We understand that here at BCG Connect and can help alleviate that feeling of overwhelmingness and take a portion off your plate. As creative direct marketing experts who know best practices in the education, healthcare, and nonprofit markets, we act as an extension of your team to be your direct marketing resource.

For more than a decade, we have been successful in partnering with our clients to create a personalized, custom approach to their marketing and fundraising initiatives, targeting the right people with an effective message, to reach their prospective and current donors. Let us help you!

Retaining donors is one of the most difficult initiatives for a fundraiser to do. With more organizations asking people to support their cause or mission, there has never been a more important time to optimize donor retention strategies. One strategy that helps with donor retention is stewardship.

Instilled in people from such a young age is the concept of saying, “Thank you.” How many times have you, or someone you know, given a child something and the adult with them says, “What do you say?” and they look at you and say, “Thank you!” Probably countless times! Being a fundraising professional should encourage you to use this phrase now more than ever. Simply thanking donors and showing the impact of their donation can go an extremely long way.

Stewardship is a vital part of an annual giving plan as it helps you retain donors – if it’s not a significant piece of your plan now, this is something that you should take into deep consideration for the future.

Here are 5 stewardship tips to help retain donors:

  1. SIMPLY SAY, “THANK YOU.” A thank you can go a long way. It makes people feel that they are appreciated and when they feel appreciated, they will start to build a loyalty and sense of pride to your organization. Saying, “Thank you,” through all different platforms is a great way to show your donors how much you appreciate them.
  2. SHOW THE DONOR HIS/HER IMPACT. Infographics are a great visual tool to show donors how they made an impact. By associating the contribution – whether it be a dollar amount, time, or other resource – to the exact area(s) it impacted, people are able to say, “I helped make that happen!” Without your donors, it is impossible to reach your goals. So, when they donate, show them what they did and how they helped make the organization better.
  3. PERSONALIZE THE THANK YOU. Personalization helps build a bond between you and the donor. It makes them feel that they are special and unique. Yes, most occasions and initiatives call for individuals to receive the same designed piece. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to personalize or segment it. Data segmentation and personalization enable you to target your donor or donor segments. For instance, you can have different variations of the stewardship piece, with personalization, if you segment donors by areas they contributed to.
  4. DON’T JUST WAIT UNTIL YOUR FYE. Have you ever thought about incorporating a stewardship campaign into your annual direct marketing plan? You might want to consider how many times per year you are currently thanking donors and how many times you could be thanking donors. Is it once a year? Twice a year? After each time they donate? You can never thank donors too much. Wondering some ways that you can thank your donors? Some clients thank their donors through designed postcards, letters, self-mailers, or other creative direct mail pieces. Connect with us to view samples.
  5. IF YOU ASK THROUGH A CHANNEL, THANK THROUGH THAT CHANNEL. There are many different channels nowadays where donors can be reached. If you ask through a particular channel, you should thank through that channel. For example, if you are sending your donors asks through direct mail, and they expect to hear from you through direct mail, then you should send a thank you through direct mail.

Interested in seeing samples of stewardship pieces?

To sum it all up, stewardship is critical to success. You did so much work identifying and acquiring your donors, you can’t forget one of the most important parts – retaining your donors. By thanking your donors, you’re one step closer to retaining them. They’ll feel like they made an actual impact as they start to build or continue to build an affinity to your organization.

BCG Connect helps clients to identify, acquire, AND retain donors through effective annual direct marketing plans. If you need help implementing stewardship pieces into your plan, or would like to talk about different direct marketing ideas for your organziation to effectively identify, acquire, and retain your donors, connect with us to learn more!

To most of the world, “Ugly Betty” was the name of an ABC original TV series starring America Ferrera. However, in the world of fundraising professionals, an ugly betty is an effective way to renew gifts from prior donors using a very direct, invoice-style approach. Fundraising appeals can vary in style – from creative self-mailers and postcards, to standard letters and invoice-style appeals – and created for various reasons.

The Common Misconception of an Ugly Betty

The Ugly Betty is not ugly! An ugly betty is simply an invoice-style appeal. Although it may not include many photos, there are plenty of creative elements to incorporate.

What’s so effective about an ugly betty? When looking at your mail and you see the piece of mail that looks like it may be an invoice or some sort of bill, it may be one of the first pieces that you open or set aside. It is instinct to pull out the “more important” looking pieces to make sure that you don’t miss any official documents.

You might ask, “Why wouldn’t every appeal be an invoice style, then?” If every appeal were an invoice style, you would reduce the effectiveness. Many organizations send ugly betties towards the end of their fiscal year to capture those prior donors that haven’t given yet.

Here are 3 components of an ugly betty to take into consideration:

  • Creative

An ugly betty might have lived up to the name, but these invoice-style appeals definitely don’t need to be ugly. There may not be many photos on the appeal, but there are different creative elements helping with the effectiveness of the piece. The simplicity of an invoice-style appeal emphasizes prior giving, lack of giving this fiscal year, and has a strong call-to-action of donating.

  • Envelope

How do you know when you get a bill in the mail? There is usually a special type of envelope. Whether it’s a window envelope, or has messaging on the envelope, it’s important to entice your donors.

  • Data Segmentation

Organizations often have an immense amount of data. It’s important that you use it! When data and direct mail align, there are endless possibilities. Data is a critical component to an effective ugly betty. It helps with showcasing the donor’s history and knows the level ask to do. For example, a chart showing Donor A gave $25 in 2015, 2016, 2017, but has yet to give in 2018. It would be appropriate to include an ask that has $25 as an option as opposed to $1,000.

Interested in seeing samples of creative invoice-style appeals?

BCG Connect works with fundraising professionals to implement creative direct marketing solutions into their annual giving campaigns. By sharing new marketing and fundraising information, BCG Connect helps clients identify, acquire and retain their donors.

 

The long and winding road to annual giving success starts with developing an annual fund plan. Annual giving is complex and having a roadmap ahead of time allows you to prepare for the possible speed bumps and detours. Your road to annual giving success begins today for the next fiscal year – it’s time to start planning!

A strong annual fund campaign requires extensive and comprehensive efforts that organizations need to plan well in advance. By doing this, annual fund objectives are clear, concise, and compelling as well as more apt to be strategically aligned throughout the fiscal year. However, according to Annual Giving Network’s 2016 Report, 67% said that they do not typically have a plan in place prior to the start of a new fiscal year.

Take a step back for a moment and think, “Did my annual fund have a documented, thought-out plan for FY’17?”

If your answer is, “Yes, it did!” – wonderful! How are you going to improve it for FY’18? It’s imperative to use as much data as you have gathered to determine what worked, what didn’t work, and how the plan can be improved. Some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Did I have a campaign across multiple channels (direct mail, email appeals, a coordinated social media campaign, and a telephone push)?
  • Did I segment the data to target the right people with the right message?
  • Did I thank donors for their previous donation and ask for another small gift at the same time?
  • Could I have incorporated 2 annual giving days instead of 1?
  • Should I have implemented a challenge day?
  • Could I have leveraged any yearly events to push annual giving (i.e. Pi Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, the Organization’s Founding Year)?
  • Did I tell donors how their donation impacted the organization?

There is always room for improvement by implementing innovative and creative ideas to your program.

If your answer is, “No, my annual fund didn’t have a strategic plan,” then you’re in luck – there is always time to put a plan in place. You might be thinking, “Where do I start? When do I start? What do I include in this plan?” Before summer, you should ideally have your approved plan in place ready to be executed for FY’18. This would put you at the perfect spot to be organized for the year and ready to strategically get donations in. Here are some guiding questions to fuel your annual giving campaign for your road trip to success:

  1. What is the theme of your annual fund? – by having a thought-out, annual theme, the annual fund can have a more succinct, consistent message upon multiple touchpoints.
  2. Do your social media pushes have consistent branding with your annual fund campaign? – as more campaigns implement social media, it’s crucial to have consistent branding across channels to connect all of the pieces for donors.
  3. Are there any yearly events that you want to include in your annual fund campaign? – if you’re focused on a certain theme for the year, you might want to consider incorporating certain events/holidays into your campaign. For example, if the founding year for your institution was 1718, you might want to implement a Giving Day on January 7, 2018 (1/7/18). If you have a theme of focusing on different departments throughout the year, you might want to focus on athletics in March and hold a March Madness bracket challenge. If you’re focusing on raising funds for a new math center, you might want to hold a giving day on Pi Day, March 14th (3.14).
  4. How will you segment your data? – knowing who your donors are helps with segmenting data as you want to ensure you are targeting the right people with the right message at the right time. Personalizing asks based on specific donor interests increases your chances of their donation.
  5. Did you thank your donors? – donor retention is a major factor of your annual fund. Maintain your relationships by thanking your donors and let them know how their gift impacted the organization! When they feel appreciated, they are more inclined to continue contributing to the fund in the future.
  6. How did the campaign do and how are you going to improve it next year? – during your current campaign, you should start thinking about next year’s campaign. Ask yourself questions like, “Should we do this strategy next year? Which approach was most successful? Which approach did not perform as we had hoped? Is there anything going on in the environment that might have impacted positive or negative results for our campaign?” By having improvement at the forefront of your mind, annual fund campaigns are more likely to succeed even more.

An annual fund campaign needs to be kept vibrant, updated, and innovative. These efforts need to be revisited and monitored constantly to ensure the annual fund is meeting or exceeding expectations. In order for aligned initiatives to be effective, goals need to be set and the prior year’s campaign needs to be evaluated at the completion of the campaign. When evaluating the campaign, it’s important to take into consideration the dollars given, participation rates, average gifts, and cost-per-dollar-raised. This will aid in establishing a benchmark that will be beneficial in setting realistic goals.

What do you think would happen if donors heard from you consistently the first year throughout the year and only one time the year after that because an annual plan wasn’t implemented? The purpose of an effective annual fund plan is to establish consistent giving habits in your donors. If they feel as though you only reach out when there is a crisis or when there is a sudden need, they won’t feel the emotional connection as they would if they had received consistent outreach explaining how they can make an impact. Retaining donors is a key contributing factor to developing and executing an annual fund plan.

As a proud partner with our clients, BCG Connect has worked strategically with numerous organizations to develop and improve their annual fund marketing campaigns. Some of the most successful campaigns were planned well in advance of the start of the fiscal year. If your goal is to work with a partner that can help develop a strategic, impactful annual fund marketing program, connect with us to learn how BCG Connect can help you!

There’s something intricate about annual fund marketing – especially if you want to go beyond the basics of annual giving and create actionable strategies that will help you expand your program for long-term success.

It’s our goal to leverage our industry knowledge when working with clients to provide them with optimal marketing solutions for their fundraising program.

With spring around the corner, it’s time to start comprehensively assessing your annual giving program and determining how to take your program to the next level – how do you relate to these 8 trends?

  1. Implement a Strong Multi-Year and Annual Plan. Developing and maintaining a strong annual fund plan provides the opportunity to comprehensively assess your annual giving program, articulate short and long term objectives, and align all objectives with the plan appropriately. This advanced planning offers the opportunity to revisit initiatives regularly and stay up to speed with expectations. As a key step to long term success, effective annual fund planning is built from strategic development, partnerships, and long-term connections with donors.
  2. Stewardship, Stewardship, Stewardship. Annual giving professionals always need to keep at the front of their minds that stewardship is a key element of annual giving. Great stewardship is crucial to high retention and should be encouraged at all levels of the donor pyramid, including thank you notes all the way to donor impact stories in different types of publications.
  3. Have You Implemented #SocialMedia Into Your Campaign? If you haven’t increased your social media presence yet, now is the time to do so. Having a campaign that shows consistent branding, from the direct marketing all the way to social media, increases the engagement of the potential donors. Donors tend to feel more involved and having numerous touchpoints is important to donor relations.
  4. Mobile is King. At the CASE D1 conference, it was stated that 14% of all online donations are made by a mobile device. It is vital that your donation page, along with any corresponding emails, attachments, or graphics on social media, are mobile enabled. Similar to the importance of mobile with the annual fund, convenience is a significant factor in getting donations through the door.
  5. Big Data and Personalized Analytics. Big data and predictive analytics are evolving annual fund giving. By analyzing donor engagement and giving over their time with the organization/institution, engagement with them improves significantly. When you know about what they are passionate about in association with the organization/institution, you can tailor a personalized approach to them that could increase the chances of a donation.
  6. Storytelling is Not Just for Children. Tapping into your donor’s emotions can engage them, connect with them, really show them exactly what you want them to see and how you want them to feel. By providing better stories, you can raise more money because people are more dedicated and proud to support the fund. Storytelling can be incorporated in appeals, giving days, challenges, stewardship, among others. Take a step back and really tell the donors why their donation is impactful, who it has helped, and why they truly make a difference no matter the amount they donated.
  7. “What Was My Impact?” – Respond to Your Donors. It’s important donors know that their donation goes to a larger cause – that it is truly impacting something. Impact reports, case studies, stories, statistics are all vital elements to provide to your potential donors to show how exactly their donation helped. Did it help fund a new building? Did it provide more resources to the organization/institution? Tell them! They want to know their impact and by providing tangible information of what their donation helped, they will be more inclined to donate again.
  8. Change is Constant. Successful annual giving programs effectively adopt the changes that will work, while still maximizing the old tools that continue to work. The saying typically goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” However, it is rather a delicate balance between using the old with the new. Learning how to adapt the new with the old can improve the likeliness of a successful annual giving program. For example, doing a direct mail piece highlighting a giving day can be complemented with a social media campaign incorporating the branding of the Giving Day.

These are just a few of the annual fund trends that should be on the forefront of your mind when developing your annual fund program. Do you need any help incorporating any of them into your campaign? We’d love to connect with you to share how we can help strengthen your campaign!

P.S. Attending the CASE District II conference in Baltimore? Let us know if you will be attending – we would love the opportunity to connect with you there!

Add some muscle to your next appeal letter to help it stand out in a crowded mailbox.

During the holiday season, everything that comes into your mailbox, from bills to credit card offers, are adorned in festive colors and glitter. So, it helps to add something special to an appeal letter to ensure that it will stand out from the colorful crowd.

Have your next appeal letter move into the spotlight. Follow these 5 fundraising appeal hacks:

1. Include images in your appeal letter:

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Adding photos to the body of the letter helps to give a face to the story, to the need, and to the reason a donor is giving. Photos also help engage a reader in the letter by helping them make a personal connection to it.

2. Add a colorful buck slip alongside your appeal letter:

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This mailing insert, approximately the size of a dollar bill (which is how it gets its name), provides room for additional graphics, images, and appeal information that can help enumerate the impact of a donation.

3. Use color and unique typography in the body of your appeal letter:

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By adding color and typographical emphasis, the reader can easily find the most important parts of your appeal letter. This also helps to break apart larger blocks of text to be easier to read and thus keeps their attention longer.

4. Add artwork or a tagline to the outer envelope:

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The envelope is an important part of the overall appeal package, but is so often overlooked (both during the design process and once it’s in the mailbox). The design of it helps to encourage the donor to open it.

5. Personalize the letter by including the following:

  • The recipient’s last gift amount: this helps to remind the donor of how much they previously gave and also gives them a point of reference for another gift.
  • A targeted ask amount: by personalizing the appeal letter with a specific ask for each letter, rather than a general ask, this helps to give the donor an understanding of how they can specifically help.
  • The recipient’s class year: by referencing a specific year, you help remind them of their experiences at the school and the reasons for giving back.
  • Add a P.S. line that repeats the call to action: use this important part of the letter to summarize the entire message – the ask, deadline, and call to action – so that when the reader’s eyes go to the bottom of the page, they have all the information.

What techniques have you used? Connect with us and let us know.

 School Challenges are one of the best ways to boost alumni participation quickly.

Regis College ran a successful school challenge after receiving a generous pledge to the annual fund of $25,000. A Regis couple asked their fellow alumni and friends to rise to the school challenge and make 600 gifts to Regis by the end of the calendar year. Long story short, they surpassed their goal with 799 donations.

The results showed that the challenge was a great way to:

  • Secure participation rates early on in the fiscal year
  • Get never-donors to make their first donation
  • Increase gift amounts from current donors
  • Show the Regis community that their peers (alumni, faculty, staff, and parents) are actively giving back.

Find out how Regis made it all happen here.

Regis College is a great example of executing a successful school challenge. To reach success, it’s important to remember that you must have ample preparation in your outreach and marketing materials in order to generate the best results.

If you’re interested in learning how BCG Connect can help you with your school challenge to boost alumni participation quickly, connect with us! We have partnered with a number of clients to improve their school challenge direct marketing materials to optimize donor engagement

#bentleygives
Bentley created a week of on-campus activities, all centered on philanthropy.

For 2015, this week of events was creatively branded with the slogan, “Bentley Runs on Philanthropy,” a spinoff of the Dunkin’ Donuts “America Runs on Dunkin'” slogan. This played well into the week’s events, which were full of coffee and running.

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Above: Branding the campaign: “Bentley Runs on Philanthropy”

Calling all coffee lovers and do-gooders…
To kick off the giving week, students were given free coffee and donuts. Then, it was their turn to “pay-it-forward” by buying a friend’s coffee. Next, they were asked to donate to Relay for Life with spare, coffee-cup change – every penny counts!

This all led up to the final event – the “Neon Run,” an organized race where students dressed to match the neon theme in glowing garb. It was a chance to show their school spirit, run with friends, and of course enjoy a cup of coffee (waiting for them at the finish line). This was a way to get students involved with supporting the Bentley Annual Fund – their registration fees were donated to the Annual Fund.

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It just goes to show – giving back can be fun too!

Success!
Bentley has had great success with this strategy over the past couple of years. In addition to getting students involved in their annual fund even before they become “young alumni”, Philanthropy Week continually:

  • Raises awareness of the Bentley Annual Fund – teaching students why it’s important to give back
  • Fosters a philanthropic culture among students
  • Provides a fun incentive for students to make a donation

View complete portfolio of event materials (crafted by Boston Color Graphics) here.

Connect with us today.