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Calendar Year-End

Calendar Year-End Prep: The 4 C’s of Direct Mail Appeals

You may be familiar with the 4 P’s of Marketing (or in some cases, the 7 P’s of Marketing), but have you heard of the 4 C’s of Direct Mail Appeals? In this day in age, acronyms and slogans get created and tossed around everywhere, so let’s break down what BCG Connect’s 4 C’s of direct mail appeals are. The 4 C’s are used to describe what your calendar year-end direct mail appeal (and every other appeal for that matter) should aim to be, which is: Creative, Clear, Compelling, and Concise.

Calendar year-end fundraising mail will be flocking mailboxes all over the world. From year-end appeals, to renewal appeals, to acquisition mailings, it’s critical to have your appeal stand out in that crowded mailbox.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the 4 C’s of direct mail appeals to improve the effectiveness of your calendar year-end appeal:

CREATIVE: What makes your organization unique? Why should someone donate to your organization over a different organization? Having creative elements makes your message appealing and draws the recipient in. Whether it is a standard letter or a self-mailer, it’s key to have creative elements to it. What defines the creative elements that are in the appeal? Well, you should first identify and focus on your target audience(s) and know as much as possible about those people – this helps with the creative process of developing a piece that connects, communicates, and engages each segment.

CLEAR: It’s important to be clear. That’s a very general statement, so being “clear” has been broken down into three categories:

  • Clear with whom you are talking to: is your direct mail appeal segmented? Do you have variable data? Have you personalized your messaging based on who you are talking to? Being clear with whom you are talking to is so important in your direct mail appeal because you need to connect with each recipient to inspire action.
  • Clear with what you are saying: make sure every sentence that is on your direct mail appeal brings value to the piece. If you took a sentence out, would the piece still make sense? Be clear with what you are saying so the recipient understands what you are telling him/her.
  • Clear with what you want the recipient to do: a call-to-action needs to be prominent, bold, and easy to understand. Having multiple call-to-actions dilutes the main, most important goal of the piece, which should be what the call-to-action is: what do you want the recipient to do when they are done reading the piece? Are you wondering if your call-to-action is distinguishable? Take a quick glance at your appeal – if the call-to-action jumps out at you, great! If it’s difficult to figure out what you’re supposed to do, you might want to go back and review it to make sure the recipient knows what action he/she should take after reading it. 

COMPELLING: What is your story? How do you tell your story about the impact that gifts make? How do you deliver that story? Storytelling is vital to developing a compelling appeal. To tell your story, it helps to know what your donors want and why they want it. It also helps to take a step back and think from your donors’ point-of-view. Perhaps, you could think, “If I were Donor A, what would I want to read on a direct mail piece? If I were Donor B, would I want to read the same thing as Donor A?” You must make your recipient believe your story and feel as though they are an influential character in that story so they are motivated to do whatever your call-to-action is.

CONCISE: Sometimes, to get a point across, people feel as though they need to explain every minute detail. However, less can be more for a direct mail piece. A great way of determining if you are being concise is to review your copy and figure out if every sentence is important to support the point you are trying to get across, or if it’s fluff that you can remove. Get straight to the point when it is appropriate and include support when it is necessary.

Calendar year-end is an ample opportunity to reach out to your donor base with a creative, clear, compelling, and concise appeal that stands out in a crowded mailbox. How do you get an appeal to stand out? BCG Connect’s creative group can handle all of that for you!

BCG Connect has been successful in partnering with our clients to create a personalized, custom approach to their direct marketing programs, targeting the right people, with an effective message, to reach their prospective and current donors. Connect with us to learn how we can help you identify, acquire, and retain your donors!

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BCG Staff Writer
Annual Funds Deserve Annual Plans

Annual Funds Deserve Annual Plans – Is Yours Ready for FY’18?

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!

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BCG Staff Writer