Tag Archive for: nonprofit

A look at how BCG Connect and Friends of the Children-Boston go forward together

There is a famous African proverb that says, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” Nonprofit organizations work to address some of the most pressing and complicated challenges of our time. Creating partnerships with trusted organizations and peers can help organizations go further and have a more lasting, sustainable impact.

One organization that exemplifies the concept of going further together is Friends of the Children – Boston (Friends-Boston). BCG Connect has partnered with Friends-Boston since 2016, collaborating on many projects including appeals, impact reports and other collateral, and events such as its annual Friend Raiser. Founded in 2004, Friends-Boston is one of the oldest affiliates of the National Friends of the Children organization. Friends-Boston creates generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors for 12+ years, no matter what. These youth, known as “Achievers” work with their mentors on core assets key to social and emotional development.

How Friends-Boston Makes an Impact

What makes Friends-Boston unique is its Two-Generation approach to strengthening families, creating a change that will be felt in the community for generations to come. Now in its 20th anniversary year, that impact is already being felt. Data collected shows that 98% of Achievers graduate to the next grade level and 100% have avoided incarceration. Additionally, 80% of alumni are either pursuing college degrees or have attained employment. Friends-Boston currently works with 144 of Boston’s most vulnerable children (along with 400+ of their siblings and caregivers) and is amid a five-year strategic growth plan that will expand its reach within the region and double the number of Achievers served.

Achievers displaying their artwork

The Important Role of Partnership

Creating such an impact cannot happen in a silo. Partnerships are at the core of the organization. As Jason Lang, Co-Founder of Doodle Consulting and key collaborator for Friends-Boston said in a recent conversation, “for Friends-Boston, partnerships are all about finding the people and organizations who share the vision of giving every child and family the resources and opportunities they need to achieve their goals.” Partnerships with community organizations and local businesses have opened doors for Achievers that might not have been available otherwise, for example, an internship opportunity at a board member’s former place of work. “True partnership”, Lang continued, “is finding people and organizations who not only share the mission and vision but who also want to walk together to be a part of the work in a big way.”

The relationship between BCG Connect with Friends-Boston developed organically out of a deep belief in the Friends-Boston mission, and an eagerness to help. Implementing programs, meeting with donors, and evaluating impact are all critical components of the work of a nonprofit professional. As are tasks like writing newsletters, creating email campaigns, and assembling appeals. With so many responsibilities, it can be challenging to accomplish everything, so BCG Connect works with its partners to take some of those tasks off their plates, so they can focus on other priorities.

According to Chris O’Keefe, a BCG Connect Account Manager, “we aim to be more than just another vendor; we take a more passionate approach.”  O’Keefe works closely with the Friends-Boston team throughout the year and has been involved in its projects since the beginning of the partnership. “We’re focused on creating personal connections. BCG Connect is an extension of your office. You have us as your back up”, he continues. “Accessibility is also key. With work that is constantly changing, being able to hop on a call or make a last-minute addition to a program can be critical. Ultimately, strong partnerships come down to building trust.”

An Achiever family and Friends-Boston Mentor.

Partnership Equals Trust

People play a big part in creating that trust, but so does an organization’s experience. BCG Connect is unique in that it focuses specifically on helping fundraising organizations improve their direct marketing programs. “Working alongside many nonprofits,” adds O’Keefe, “we have a 30,000-foot view of the sector and can bring that perspective to our partners. We really focus on getting to know them on a personal level and sharing our knowledge. That rapport deepens the sense of trust.”

It is that trust that leads to better collaboration and an overall work product you can be proud of. As Jason Lang reminded us: “When you’re in a creative process and you have the opportunity to collaborate, what you create together is so much better than what any one person could do. It makes a tremendous difference when you can find a partner who can take some of the weight off so you can focus on the bigger picture.”

Developing strong, trust-based partnerships enable organizations like Friends-Boston to focus more on their missions. Stacy DellOrfano, the Director of Development for Friends-Boston, added her support: “having that partnership, in every sense of the term, with BCG Connect has been amazing.  The team is so supportive in finding the best ways to communicate with our donors and community.  It’s more than the substantial services they provide to us at Friends-Boston, it’s the feeling that we are part of a team of people who care.  We could not ask for a better partner to share our story.”  BCG Connect is grateful to be a small part of the change that organizations like Friends-Boston make in their communities.

We have heard it all. And we think direct mail gets a bad rap. Long considered “junk mail” direct mail is seeing a new revival with the onslaught of emails sent to your inbox every day. That’s why we’re making the case with these 11 statistics.

There are articles out there stating why it’s making a resurgence. And then there are others, which support the idea that direct mail has a more lasting impression on donors than digital marketing.

Of course, we’re biased for mail, since that’s what we’ve done for 20 years. But since we’re also tasked with using digital mediums, email for instance, we thought we should make the case.

And it’s pretty convincing.

Here are 11 reasons you should consider direct mail marketing:

  1. 56% of donors think print marketing is the most trustworthy of all marketing channels.

  2. Donors spend an average of 30 minutes reading mail on any occasion.

  3. 70% of Americans say that mail is more personal than the internet.

  4. 73% of donors said they prefer direct mail for brand communications because they can read it at their convenience.

  5. Recipients read 56% of postcards, making them the most read mail pieces.

  6. 48% of people keep mail pieces for future reference.

  7. 79% of donors will act on a postcard immediately, compared to only 45% who say they deal with email immediately.

  8. 76% of Americans purchase because direct mail influenced them.

  9. Response rates still top those of other mediums; the average response rate is 1.1-1.4% compared to .03% for email, .04% for internet display and .22% for paid search.

  10. 56% of consumers say they have tried a new business after receiving a postcard or letter, while 70% have renewed previous relationships with businesses.

  11. 44% of people said they had visited a website after receiving postcards; 34% searched online.

Now, since your focus is on building your nonprofit donations, why wouldn’t you consider adding more touch points to your annual appeals?

We are passionate about direct mail. In fact, we’ve shared statistics frequently for you to use in defense of direct mail. Finally, we put together an infographic for you to highlight some key statistics.

Direct Mail Infographic

BCG Connect works with development and advancement offices in the education, nonprofit, and healthcare sectors. If you’re seeking direct marketing that reaches your donors in a timely, managed fashion, reach out to us today.

Ahh, the infamous question: self-mailers vs. letters for your next appeal?

Self Mailers vs Letters – Which is best for you?

Direct mail formats should be more strategic than just following personal preferences.

Meanwhile, it’s visible, it’s direct, and it gets noticed. The direct mail format is a key component of your direct mail campaign. It’s your physical link to your donors. One thing that has to be taken into consideration is the choice of format. Though you may have some idea of what type of layout to use, the best decision will depend on:

  • objectives
  • donor segments
  • your budget

Introduction: What is the difference between a self-mailer and a letter?

Let’s first look at the classic. Often considered formal communication, the letter develops a personal connection between the nonprofit and the donor. Then, there’s the self-mailer. Sometimes seen as an informal way of communicating, the self-mailer takes more creative liberties than the classic letter.

This all seems obvious, of course.

But what difference does it mean to the nonprofit looking for donations?

The Benefits of Using Self-Mailers

Self mailers are a great way for nonprofits to share imagery through stories and graphics. They are a low-cost and effective option.

But you know that already.

What are the benefits of self-mailers for nonprofits?

Sending a self-mailer to your donors has many benefits. You can highlight your annual report, tell donors about the most recent achievements of your nonprofit, share upcoming events and more. With variable printing and segmenting your data, you can even illustrate through imagery, as well as the text of each self-mailer.

A successful self-mailer is one that calls out the recipient by name within the headings. Adding other personal information, such as grad year, is another way of personalizing your self-mailer.

However, self-mailers are associated with retail companies.

So, could that be why some institutions and organizations swear by letters?

Engaging Vehicles for Letters

Envelopes are not just a container for letters. They are a vehicle for delivering an emotional connection to the letter, which is what makes them so engaging.

Envelope design can be an important part of a letter’s success. Designers have to consider how the recipient will handle the envelope and if they will open it.

Since an envelope is the first thing that people see when they receive a letter in their mailboxes, it’s often the only thing that people see before they open up the letter and read what is inside of it.

3 Reasons Nonprofits Use Letters over Self-Mailers

Letters allow you to show a sense of value and importance. Letter and envelope combinations have the room to tell your compelling story to your target audience about your nonprofit. Let’s take a closer look at why letters work:

  1. Tell your story with an interesting type of font that creates call-outs throughout your letter.

  2. Add a detachable reply card at the bottom of your letter. Simplify the steps a potential donor needs to take. Creating a process for donations will increase the chances of your target audience to donate.

  3. Add imagery. Take the same visual approach that a self-mailer uses by adding images and iconography to your letter.

Now what?

The Hybrid version with Letters and Self-Mailers

Many of our clients are using “self-mailers” in envelopes. I suppose it’s no longer a self-mailer, but you understand what I mean. This way, they get the benefits of both the letter and the “self-mailer” by using an envelope. So why is this becoming more popular?

In addition, it’s the best of both worlds. You now can include all the imagery you want, tell the story you want to tell, and add your business reply envelope.

Here’s an example of a folded card with a reply card, a reply envelope, and an outer envelope. While it’s not really a “self-mailer,” it uses all the elements a self-mailer would employ.

Self-mailers with letters and envelope

Conclusion: How to Choose which one is right for you

In short, if you’re questioning self-mailers vs. letters, and you have the budget, perform a test. Be sure to send to equal numbers of your letters vs. self-mailers. You don’t have to split your mail down the middle. Always use one targeted segment for the test. The remaining segments can use whichever version you prefer.

But, if you don’t have the budget to test, consider the hybrid model. At BCG Connect, we create multiple versions of direct mail pieces. From letters to self-mailers to the hybrid, we design, print, and mail them all. Reach out to use today!

That’s a bold statement: “empower your communications through data management.”

After all, data management is the process of organizing and structuring data in a way that it is easily searchable and useable.

While it isn’t always the most interesting task of an individual’s job, it is very important to format your data so that you have easy access to it. Although you use data management for any type of data, it’s mostly used for structured data.

One example of structured data would be donor information, such as names, addresses, and emails, as well as giving history. You can also use data management for unstructured data like videos or photos. But what does managing your data have to do with your communications?

Data Management Graph

In a 2019 survey, Everyaction and Nonprofit Hub found that 90% of their respondents collect data. However, only 5% said they are using the data. So you’re collecting all this data. What can you do with it?

How to Affect Fundraising Communications with Data Management

How you manage your data affects your fundraising in a variety of ways. The data you collect helps to design strategies and, ultimately, communications.

Your data management strategy is the key to a successful nonprofit communications strategy. Each nonprofit should have a data strategy in place to make sure that they are collecting the right data and using it effectively to reach their goals. In order to reach your goals, you need to manage all the aspects of your data.

More and more nonprofit organizations recognize the importance of managing their data. They realize this critical information provides an opportunity for them to innovate and improve upon their communications. In addition, nonprofits can use data to create a better donor experience, potentially increasing donations.

This isn’t just about keeping track of the data, it also includes knowing how to use it.

What data do you need to collect in order to be successful?

There are many ways to collect, analyze and act on data that are relevant for your communications.

Before you can manage your data, you need to collect it. Using social media, direct mail, or landing pages is a great start.

What Types of Data Should You Collect?

Data collection is the first step in any data management process. To collect data, you need to know what information you want, where to find it and how to organize it. Once you collect that information, you can use it to track trends and, of course, for your communications.

Some data that you should collect and manage for your nonprofit communications are:

    • Demographic data (gender, age, ethnicity)

    • Geographic data (state, region)

    • Behavioral data (online behavior, engagement with social media)

    • Transaction data (donations, memberships)

    • Interest data (clubs, sports teams, participation at events)

How To Use Your Collected Data

Now you can use your data for a variety of purposes. Data is the one asset that you can use to maximize your marketing efforts. To put your data into action, you can use it for direct mail, email, digital ads, or web design.

Direct mail: Direct mail takes your provided data using variable printing. It goes way beyond personalization. All of that demographic, geographic, behavioural, transactional, and interest data can now intertwine throughout the copy and imagery.

Email: You can send trigger emails based on behavioural data. This is an efficient way to reach out to your donors while you are top of mind. Tease your donors with a story via email and drive your donors to your donation page or your website.

Digital ads: Digital ads are an excellent way of reaching out to people who are on the go and have their attention focused on their phones or tablets. You can use them to target previous visitors from your website or your social media. You can even serve up ads to your direct mail list!

Website: You can personalize your website based on the data you collect from your donors and the content they are interested in. This will help make sure that your website stays relevant to them and that you continue to engage them with the content they want.

Conclusion: Time to Power Up Your Communications

The data that you collect from your donors is critical to the growth of your organization. You can increase donations, manage the donor relationship, and create a more personalized experience for them. Developing a strategy around your data management only enhances your communications.

At BCG Connect, we protect your data and use it to provide more effective marketing campaigns. We have several ways to use your data into the creative, copy, and visual elements. If you’d like to know more about how we can help turn your data into powerful communications, get in touch with us.

Designing a direct mail appeal is a tricky process. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of design options and end up with something that doesn’t quite fit your needs. So how do you decide what to include? In this article, we’ll walk you through all the different appeal design components that go into designing your direct mail appeal.

The Direct Mail Piece Is a Piece of Art

First, a direct mail piece appeal is an investment in your nonprofit or school. It’s designed to convert inquiry into action and spark first impressions. The success of your appeal depends on the design as much as it does on the content and copywriting.

Designers use color, imagery, fonts, and graphics to create an emotional response. When you send a direct mail piece, there are a few important appeal design options to consider:

  • The purpose of the mailing is clear through the images and headings. Draw the eye throughout the piece to tell the story even if skimmed through.

  • The design should create an emotional response that resonates with the potential donor. This is true for direct mail pieces because they have such a long life.

  • The genetic make-up of what’s included in your direct mail piece can influence or turn away your donors. Are you sending a letter with a buck slip and reply card? Are you including a premium in your mailer?

How to Fit All that Information

Designing a direct mail appeal is not just about creating an aesthetically pleasing piece. It is about creating an information heavy piece that requires careful attention from the designer. It is important to have a balance of images, icons, and headings to create a clean and organized design.

With the rise in popularity of infographics as marketing tools, nonprofits are using them more often in their appeals. Creative designers see an opportunity to use these graphic visuals. These add value and help readers understand complex topics or information.

Icons provide a significant amount of instant recognition for appeal design options. Icons are often used to represent various data points in different ways. For example, in the image, you can visualize the point that the appeal is trying to make. The next time you see an icon, take a moment and think about what it might mean.

Hopkins School Infographics

Choosing the Right Appeal Format

All the appeal design options now lead you to determine the format. The type of format that you choose for your direct mailer should depend on:

  • your budget,
  • the message you are trying to convey,
  • and the desired reach.

For a more personal message, the letter format is best. However, it can be an expensive option. This makes postcard or self-mailers formats more suitable for a less expensive choice.

In addition, when considering a letter format, it offers a personalized message that is printed on high-quality paper with an envelope. A letter provides a more personalized piece to the donor. It is best used when you have time to write an engaging letter.

Self-mailers are a great way for nonprofits to create interaction between recipients and their mission. We typically use these mailers as an extension of a campaign, providing information about the overall goal. Including a donation form perforated on the bottom makes it easier for the donor to return.

Postcards are a less expensive alternative to a self-mailer because it requires less copy. However, the postcard needs to show impact through a firm base of imagery. Our clients use the postcard for alumni events, fiscal year-end reminders, and save the date for giving days.

Incorporating White Space in Your Design

Now that you’ve chosen your format, content, graphics, imagery, reply card, etc., it’s important not to crowd your appeal. White space is the empty area between the distinct elements of your design.

This design element is the empty area between the distinct elements of your design. It’s an artful way to use design to create a visual separation of your content. The lack of overcrowding in content allows for readers to focus on what you’re trying to say.

Using white space is crucial for sending out a postcard or other type of direct mail. Cutting back on clutter and having some blank space gives the reader a chance to consume what they’re reading. Including a minimal amount of white space will make it easy for your target audience to navigate through the message and head straight to your ask. Keep it simple!

What to Do with All These Appeal Design Options

A strategically and creatively designed appeal will give you the best chance of standing out in the mail. Separate yourself from the dozens of other companies who are also vying for the attention of your constituents. Being able to rise above the crowd with high-quality and intentional direct mail designs, stellar copy, and personalization throughout your mailers will position you and your nonprofit for success.

Need help with the design of your next appeal? We have graphic designers on staff who specialize in delivering a well-designed appeal. Designing nonprofit mail is just one of the many services we offer. Let us know if we can help you with any of your marketing needs.

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.


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.