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Five Ways to Optimize Your Email Fundraising Strategy

Email is responsible for about one third of nonprofits’ online fundraising revenue. With email files often five times larger than social network followers, it has become the workhorse of many organizations’ digital fundraising.

Optimizing your email fundraising strategy can pay big dividends. Read on to learn ways you can make the most of your email program!

1

Focus on quality, not quantity.

Everyone is sending more emails—but users aren’t opening them. That’s why you should focus on quality, not quantity. For example, individualizing emails can increase open rates by 244 percent—and improve clickthrough rate by 161 percent.

2

Remove inactive addresses.

When you repeatedly email non-responders, the resulting lower engagement rates reduce the likelihood of your messages being delivered—which further depresses engagement rates. Purge those inactives to avoid being trapped in a vicious cycle.

3

Always test.

Test send day, send time, and cadence. Test subject line length, tone, and content. Test sender name and email address. And test copy and design to ensure that calls to action are clear and compelling. Test everything, and test often!

4

Create stronger and more specific segments so you always send the most relevant content.

Consider creating a “recently engaged” segment that includes recipients who have opened at least five or clicked at least one email in the past six months. You can also target specific interests based on response to a similar action alert or donation subject appeal in the current or previous year. And be sure to segment for chronic non-responders—those who have not opened, clicked, taken action or donated in a specific period.

5

Target content based upon what you know about your donors.

Your donors expect you to know who they are—so use the data you have! Personalize by name, location, and cohort status. And when you don’t know, ask questions to learn more!

We would love to work with you to optimize your email fundraising strategy and make the most of this important revenue source. Please reach out to Brenna Holmes, Principal and Senior Vice President, at bholmes@ccah.com to learn more about how we can help!

Rookie of the Quarter - Alexandria Sewell

Rookie of the Quarter: Alexandria S.

Rookie of the Quarter - Alexandria Sewell

At CCAH, we know that progress is what keeps us relevant and keeps us moving toward our mission — advancing change and committing to activism that makes a difference. That’s why each quarter we like to recognize one of our newest employees who is helping move us toward our goals and continuing our push for progress. Our Rookie of the Quarter award is given to an employee who has started their CCAH journey in the past year and has shown their willingness to go above and beyond. They are nominated by the CCAH management committee (our partners, VPs, and president, Kim Cubine), and they exemplify CCAH’s commitment to progress.

This quarter, we are recognizing Alexandria S.

Alexandria started her career at FRIDA – The Young Feminist Fund, where she led website communications for one of the world’s largest grant-funding feminist organizations. The experience inspired her to launch her own website and initiative, YoungBlackFeminist, dedicated to discussing the latest pressing issues in racial justice and women’s rights activism. Alexandria then broadened her writing career into brand communications work for a wide range of start-ups, which honed her writing skills as she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance. After graduating university, Alexandria returned to activism-themed writing and dived into the world of fundraising copywriting at CCAH!

After work, you can find her singing any song she can get her hands on (from opera to Beyonce), reading a good book, enjoying nature, and hanging out with friends and family.

We are proud to have Alexandria as part of our CCAH family and cannot wait to see what comes next. Congratulations on being our Rookie of the Quarter!

MissionWired Acquires CCAH, Forming Partnership of Record-Breaking Fundraisers and Audience Builders

Over our decades of combined experience, we’ve been the best at what we do. We’ve built large, thriving digital communities, raising more than $1.5 billion online and driving 75 million unique actions. And even in the throes of a global pandemic, we have been able to raise record-breaking amounts of money for democratic candidates and progressive causes through direct mail, digital, phones and SMS – and allowed hundreds of millions of people to stay connected and remain engaged in causes that matter to them.  

Our driving focus as two separate firms has always held steady: to offer solutions to every challenge faced within our expertise of digital or direct mail. At MissionWired, that’s resulted in innovations like the AdvantageAI digital data co-op. When our partners needed another acquisition source, we developed it: looking at the direct mail co-op model and seeing ways it could be reimagined for email growth, an effort that resulted in the first-ever digital list growth co-op – and the best-performing acquisition source on the market. 

Through it all, we’ve evolved and grown to be the best at what we do, centered on the why that animates us. Nonprofits and campaigns deserve support worthy of their lifesaving causes, teams who are hungry, relentless, always ready to think harder, rejecting the easy and obvious for the record-breaking and transformational. And so, when we saw the opportunity to expand what we’re offering, to bring expertise across all channels to our partners, the decision to join forces was simple. 

The union between MissionWired and CCAH is forged on the belief that as digital experts, direct mail experts and creators of the first-ever digital co-op we can be something that has never existed in our space: best-in-class specialists joined together to create a team of data-powered, do-it-all changemakers.  

Together, the possibilities are endless. When rapid response hits, MissionWired and CCAH experts can deploy across channels, ensuring that no one in your audience – standing on the edge, poised to give – is without an invitation to help. For your supporters who are looking for organizations who know them (see: all of them), who understand the programs they care about, the channels that gravitate toward, the seasons in which they prefer to give, we can develop integrated, cross-channel strategies that honor their preferences. We can do it across mail, email, SMS, paid social, and more.  

What’s more, our existing work with your organization will only change if you want it to: every member of the MissionWired and CCAH management teams is staying on. As you continue to collaborate with teams you trust over channels for which you’re responsible, we’ll keep looking for avenues to help you raise more and grow bigger audiences. 

We couldn’t be more excited about what’s ahead. It’s an honor and privilege to do this work with you, and we know our best work is ahead of us. Should you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out.  

Anne + Kim 

Now in Direct Mail: Navigating New Paper and Printing Challenges

In a time of postal delays, paper shortages, and supply chain disruptions, CCAH is helping organizations rise to unprecedented challenges in print and direct mail production.

If you’re looking at an eight-month lead time for envelopes and wondering how to plan now for November mailings, you’re not alone. Direct marketers face new challenges in getting direct mail out the door—from postage increases and rising paper costs to labor shortages and shipping delays.

But direct mail is a major (and often primary) source of revenue for many organizations. Few organizations can afford to scale back direct mail programs or cut campaigns. Not to mention, many folks who comprise your direct mail audiences might not have access to computers or mobile devices; they rely on the mail to stay connected to the issues they care about.

The good news is that there are ways to navigate the new landscape, and we are here to help you through it. 

Shannon Murphy, Principal and Senior Vice President of Production

A Closer Look

According to the Bureau of Labor, over 4 million people voluntary quit their jobs in the month of January. An additional 3.6 million people called in sick from work that same month due to COVID-19 and other factors. On top of that, many people who spent their careers working in print are retiring from the printing trade, and so far, fewer workers in younger generations are stepping in to fill these roles. Like many sectors, print production is contending with a reduction in the workforce.

In addition to labor shortages, COVID-19 impacted paper supply and demand. In 2020, paper production was reduced by 40%, and many paper mills converted their lines to produce other materials. In 2021, demand for paper increased but mills couldn’t keep up. They weren’t and still aren’t able to import as much paper because of mill closures and logistical challenges, including trucking shortages, container shortages, increased dock time, and railway bottlenecks.

Some mills are completely sold out of certain types of paper, and mills are allocating paper to printers based on historical purchasing to prevent stockpiling. These factors have resulted in increased costs and lead time.

Because of the increased demand for paper that is expected through 2022 and into 2023, prices will continue to increase. Mills will consolidate offerings, and some brands will be discontinued. A worker strike in Finland at UPM, one of the world’s leading producers of label stock, began at the start of the year and is lasting through March, further impacting the paper industry.

Meanwhile, postage rates continue to rise, with the next rate increase set to take place on July 10, 2022.  At that time, rates are projected to increase by as much as 9% – 9.5%. Starting in January 2023, the US Postal Service has planned for two postage rate increases per year.

“However long the day, the evening will come – bad times don’t last forever.” – Irish proverb

Adapt and Overcome

CCAH is fortunate to work with suppliers who are going above and beyond to accommodate our clients’ needs in this challenging environment. While there are no easy or immediate solutions, there are steps you can take to stay in the mail and get your message in front of your donors.

At CCAH, we work with our clients to apply for USPS promotions to cut costs, leveraging USPS Gateway as a savings tool. We gang print for multiple campaigns, across programs and across clients. We also track mail for our clients to stay on top of delivery times and ensure mail pieces are delivered. And we implement innovative production techniques to offset cost increases and decrease production time. Here are additional steps we are taking that everyone can consider:

    • Choose the appropriate class of mail for your campaign. Build time into your plans so you don’t need to mail as much first class.
    • Keep mailing lists clean using NCOA and ACS, and purge undeliverable addresses from your lists.
    • Sign up for USPS Promotions. For Example, Informed Delivery will take 4% off your postage costs for the last five months of 2022. It has the added benefits of being free, potentially boosting response, and keeping your organization as visible as your competitors.
    • Be open to alternative paper stocks and different formats, which allow for flexibility in sourcing.
    • Stay away from print flat & convert envelopes, which take more time to produce.
    • Think about the BRE – how essential are white mail codes? The answer might be different for everyone, but it’s important to ask the question.
    • Is SRE postage warranted?
    • Tint paper to match a color. Color stocks are becoming harder to come by.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do now to ensure a successful year-end is  plan ahead and stay flexible. Don’t just have a Plan A. Have Plans B and C too. Already, many envelope suppliers are booked through August. So, start strategizing for your fall campaigns early, order paper now, and book press time. Come autumn, you’ll be happy you did!

And if you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send me an email at smurphy@ccah.com.

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What CCAH Is Thankful for This Holiday Season

CCAH has a LOT to be thankful for! The past year has seen new challenges to overcome, but through it all, we’ve done incredible work with our amazing clients. Our CCAH family has grown as we’ve welcomed new employees and clients: intelligent, creative, collaborative individuals that make our work space better and brighter every day.

We are proud that CCAH has become a place that feels like home all year round, from raising money for incredible causes, like researching cures for diabetes and cancer, helping to protect public lands and animals in need, or to helping elect democratic women. After a year full of progress toward our collective goal to make the world a better place, our hearts could not be more filled with thanks and gratitude.

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“So thankful for talented and dedicated teammates that make even the most hectic schedules achievable!” – Brenna, Principal and SVP of Digital

I am thankful for my health and my family…and for the opportunity to work at CCAH. While it’s only been a short time, I’m so happy to be part of the team and can’t wait to see what the future holds!” – Jennifer, VP, Direct Mail

“I am thankful to be blessed with such an encouraging, loving, and hilarious family!” – Arwen, Account Representative, Direct Mail

“I am thankful that my wife and I are growing from a two-person household to 3. We are expecting a new child in early spring 2022!!” – Delan, Account Representative, Digital

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“I am thankful for my team for their support and kindness.” 
– Steven, Senior Copywriter

“I am thankful for my nephews and the eternal youth they provide me while we’re blowing bubbles, putting together Legos, or playing with Play-Doh.” 
Beth, Account Manager, Direct Mail

“I’m thankful for all the people in my life–friends, family, coworkers, clients—that always pull together to support and encourage each other.” 
Colleen, VP, Digital

“I am thankful to work with coworkers who have turned into true friends.” 
Stephanie, Account Representative, Direct Mail

“I’m thankful for the enduring love and support of my amazing boyfriend Rob. 
– Jessica, Production Manager

“This year, I’m especially thankful for the amazing scientists finding vaccines that are saving lives and keeping loved ones healthy. The pandemic has made me even more appreciative of family, friendships and a supportive workplace.” – Adva, SVP, Digital Ads

“I’m thankful that my previous employment closed and laid me off due to pandemic economic impacts because it allowed me/forced me to follow my passion of working with nonprofits and start work with CCAH!” – Crystal, Senior Account Representative, Direct Mail

“I am so grateful for a supportive work community that cares deeply about everyone’s well-being – especially during the high-octane year-end giving season!” – Mike, Digital Advertising Manager

From our CCAH family to yours, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Print Industry: Important Update

Plan Ahead – Way Ahead!

Envelope lead times can take up to 12 weeks. These lead times are the longest I’ve seen in the 20+ years I’ve been in the industry. Causing these delays are several factors:

    • Paper Shortages
    • Staffing Shortages across the supplier network
    • Transportation Delays

Paper Shortages & Cost Increases

Shannon Murphy, Principal and Senior Vice President of Production

Many paper mills have announced they are on allocation. This means they have limited tons available to produce/sell each month, and they are going to prioritize those tons to key customers/printers/end‐users. Each mill has different amounts of paper allocated to their key accounts. These allocation tons are determined by past customer history and are monitored and adjusted monthly as orders are placed and accepted into the mill runs. In addition, we have seen delays from multiple mills as they fall behind with their schedule. We expect similar market conditions to continue the balance of the year and well into 2022 or even early 2023.

Due to the allocated paper market, mills have been slow to confirm paper orders, but placing orders early will help the mill when determining allocation. Once paper is ordered you own it.

Some companies are not able to get recycled stock. This could be a problem for many environmental non‐profit organizations. In the past two weeks, a supplier told me that due to allocation he can’t order recycled paper until February.

Labor Shortages and major disruptions in the supply chain, made worse by the pandemic, have caused delays in print. Some paper manufacturers have scaled back their shifts due to the delta variant. Many have shifted to producing packaging materials due to the increase in online order shipping with the onset of COVID‐19.

Paper costs have increased 14% over the last year due to the increase in wood pulp. Wood pulp has increased over 50% in the last year. And paper increases aren’t over as several paper manufacturers have announced additional increases in the past few weeks.

Staffing Shortages

According to a recent study by Booz Allen, the number one business concern in the print industry is finding skilled workers. Because of this shortage 6/10 production jobs go unfilled. Not only is this affecting press operators, ink technicians, and prepress workers, it’s also affecting the trucking industry.

Suppliers are running at 75% capacity simply because they don’t have the staff to run equipment.

Other factors are playing into the staffing shortage:

    • Continued COVID Cases
    • Quarantine Requirements
    • Lack of childcare
    • Extended Unemployment Benefits
    • Pandemic having prompted workers to move to other industries
    • Retirement of the baby boomer generation

Transportation Delays

    • Nationwide truck driver shortage translates to only one driver available for every eight truckloads that are ready for delivery.
    • Lack of drivers and workers cause port back ups for shipments coming in from overseas.
  • Any one of these issues would cause delays, but the combination of these issues results in longer lead times and an increase in cost over last year for the same service.

CCAH Recommendations

    • Plan Ahead – schedules will be longer for the foreseeable future
    • Deliver Art on Schedule – flexibility in due dates is a thing of the past. Art delivered behind schedule doesn’t mean a “day for a day” anymore … a one‐day delay can translate to several weeks delay in the print schedule
    • Order Ahead – print for multiple campaigns at a time
    • Time Savers – print letter head and envelopes early; duplex laser to allow more lead time with copy; inkjet teasers instead of printing on envelopes
    • Be Flexible on Paper Stock (if you can) – can you tint white stock instead of using color paper or use a different paper weight?
    • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

There is some uncertainty still, but it looks like we will continue to have print industry challenges into 2022 and 2023. Please plan ahead. And if you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send me an email at smurphy@ccah.com.

Kim Cubine

Celebrating Our Staff

Each year, we set aside some time where we can acknowledge important miles stones and have a little fun together, and last week, CCAH held our annual staff appreciation day.

Our Spirit Week did look a little different this year. Typically, we have a week of fun filled activities in our East Coast and West Coast offices. Traditionally we have a day of service on 9/11 here in the DMV, and we spend the day with AARP packing lunches for Seniors in need, and our West Coast office does a day of service with one of the awesome groups that we work with out there.

Kim Cubine
Kim Cubine, President

So, for the second year in a row, we found ways to show our appreciation Covid Style! Celebrating our employees with food, cheer, and an afternoon off on Friday so everyone could start their weekend early.

But, before we all left for the week, we took a moment to reflect on three key areas of our firm: Client Success, CCAH Internal Initiatives, and Exciting Company Growth.

Client Success

First, the work of our clients … most of us are here at CCAH because we want to make a positive impact on the world—and we want our work to make a difference.

And since the pandemic shut down the world, the work that our employees do has proven even more important than ever.

In this past year and a half, Email, Direct Mail, and Mobile were the only form of communication with donors for many organizations. While the world was going to hell in a handbasket, our clients dove in head-first to help address the multitude of crises happening in 2020. As a matter of fact, some even posted their best fundraising year ever because of the work and commitment of their CCAH team. I am so proud of what we delivered. When we look back on this whole “Covid time” and think about what we did to make a difference—well, we get to answer:

I helped hospitals expand their services to meet the Covid Crisis … 

I delivered PPE to thousands of people for our clients … 

I helped people down on their luck get reintroduced to society and get a job and start a new life … 

I helped raise the funds to open the doors of the International African American Museum … 

I helped make sure that hundreds of thousands of voters had were educated on where and how to cast their ballot—despite a massive voter suppression effort … 

And we even had the energy to help take back Congress, get rid of Trump, and elect the first biracial woman as Vice President in our nation’s history!

And I could go on. Every day you are helping these amazing organizations make someone’s life a little better … and that’s not something to take for granted, or something everyone can say they did. I am so honored to lead these dedicated people in making this difference.

CCAH Internal Initiatives

We have embraced becoming a more flexible workplace and trying to work with each of our employees on their personal needs to help balance work and life. After a few surveys and some informal focus groups, the management team has made a big push to meet our employees where they are. 

We’ve expanded where we’re registered and now have employees in 14 different states, allowing staff to relocate and significantly expanding our hiring pool. We added additional vacation days to our schedule and increased the “supervisor discretion” time off over the summer. And at the beginning of this year each employee started receiving a monthly stipend for home office supplies.

But we all know, nothing really replaces the ability to have human interaction: whether at the office or your neighborhood coffee shop, people need a change of scenery and a real person to talk to from time to time.

And unfortunately, that’s something I can’t fix nor can I promise when it will change. But I can promise you that at CCAH, our Partners and Management spend a lot of time thinking about how we can help our employees, each and every one of them, navigate these new challenges. We know we may not get it right every time, and we are open to all ideas and suggestions for new ways to approach any issue, and we’ll never stop striving to make things better.

Exciting Company Growth

And finally, looking toward company growth and future. We have launched a number of new internal divisions in this past year or so.

For example, we launched the new Nonprofit Ads Department. And in January, when we had the unofficial launch of our CCAH Ads division, and within the first few months we were invited to participate in RFPs for five well-known nonprofits (after we had only been “live” for ~45 days!), introducing ourselves to at least 100 influential folks in the nonprofit space who were very impressed with what they saw. And that is how you start to build the business.

QCT data management has been another tremendous success. This outstanding team has been expanding our portfolio of data services. And they plan to continue to grow their team and bring in even more data management for the company.

And after Testing a Co-op model for Senate Candidates, our CCAH Political Team is delving into critical voter education and get-out-the-vote work and has built out two teams now focusing on this endeavor.

So not only are we doing great work for our clients, we’re expanding our services across the company and watching for trends that provide other new business opportunities.

What's Next?

As I look towards the future, there is nothing more valuable to our firm than our incredible employees. With new partner and management team voices, and a laser focus on challenges and opportunities in 2022, the company leadership is hard at work looking for answers to the tough questions, tackling challenges head-on, and staying on top of trends that put us ahead of our competition. To all of you, a huge thanks. The work we do is important, but it is this dedication to excellence that has kept us going strong for over 35 years.

The expectation of our company leadership is that we approach all challenges and opportunities with culture and values leading the way.

We must ensure that our company continues innovating, offering our employees the best skills training available and professional development opportunities inside and outside the company. And that we lean into our diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities — even and especially while we are remote. We need to look inward to see how to improve and make those changes outwardly as we continue to drive toward excellence in the industry.

But most importantly, as our staff appreciation week comes to a close, and we continue looking forward and reflecting on the year so far, I want to take a moment to tell our employees, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do at CCAH.

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Postage Rates Will Officially Increase

The PRC has approved the rate increase to take place on August 29, 2021.  Postage rates will be increasing by an average of 6.8%.

6.8% is made up by adding the Consumer Price Index (CPI), funds for retirement costs, a “density” factor (delivering less mail to more homes), and another tenth of a percent because they it wasn’t used during the last postage increase. This is not the last time you will see an increase like this – expect to see it again in 2022 and beyond.

The Postal Service calculates what they determine to be the rate authority granted by the PRC’s formula, and then consider the minimum they will need from this to mitigate lost income. After this consideration they determine how much they believe they can increase rates. Then this  authority is used to propose a rate case for the PRC to approve. 

The rate increase varies by class of mail, sort density, and piece size.

Shannon Murphy, Principal & SVP of Print Production

Nothing has changed in the rate case filed at the end of May – it’s just been approved. There are things you can do to help mitigate the increase.  

  • The Informed Delivery Promotion that starts on September 1 will give you 2% off your letter and flat mail, at least through November. 
  • You should also consider removing bad addresses from your files – ACS users still generally find 1% – 2% undeliverable addresses even after NCOA processing. 
  • Run your data files through PCOA also. Just because people are moving doesn’t mean they are reporting it to the USPS.
  • Make sure you get your flat work out by August 27, 2021.

To learn more about this change and what it may mean for your and your organization, you can see detailed rate charts here: https://www.ccah.com/usps-price-increase-2021.pdf

There are lots of moving parts in the direct mail production world  more updates to come as we get them! Please leave any questions in the comment section below or send me an email at smurphy@ccah.com.

USPS Proposed Changes to First-Class Mail Delivery Service Standards

You may have seen, back in March, that the USPS published a 10-year strategic plan to achieve financial stability and service excellence. This plan includes adjusting the current 1–3-day continental U.S. First-Class delivery standard to 1-5 days. These changes are expected to be rolled out on October 1. In theory, the USPS expects this change to not only allow them to better meet delivery standards, which they’ve failed to meet over the past 8 years but also reduce their cost of delivering First-Class mail.

The summary of the proposed service change is as follows: mail that is currently delivered within 1 day (3-hour drive time from entry to delivery point) will not change. However, they are proposing stretching the 2–3-day delivery period out to 2-5 days. 

The chart below compares the current 2–3-day service standard against the proposed service standard. Ultimately, 81% of the current 2-day volume should keep a 2-day standard, with the remaining 19% flowing into 3-days. The current 3-day volume would be changed to 3-5 days, with 47% remaining the same, 36% going to 4-days, and the remaining 17% changing to 5-days.

Basically, 70% of current 1–3-day delivery would remain the same and 30% would be adjusted to 4 or 5-day delivery based on distance and destination-cost-impact.

*Note: Figures in the chart above are rounded and therefore may not add up to 100%

Between March and July, the USPS requested the US Postal Regulatory Commission consider the proposed service standard change which was completed and released on July 20, 2021. In summary, the Commission did find that extending the service standards would help the USPS meet delivery requirements but is concerned that the USPS has not tested their theory and thus they are lacking supporting evidence that they can operationally make these changes and have the overall expected service and financial impact.

Additionally, the Commission did not find that changing the service standards would have any financial impact, especially without supporting evidence. The USPS doesn’t need the Commission’s approval to change service standards. Kim Frum, USPS spokeswoman, said they are reviewing the recommendations of the Postal Regulatory Commission, and will consider them as we move forward with our plan. This statement further insinuates that the USPS will move ahead with their plans, despite the Commission’s findings, on September 1, 2021.