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.

Mid-level Nirvana: Recap from Bridge Conference 2021

When there are multiple agency partners and internal departments playing a role in one mid-level giving program, how do you achieve success year after year? If you attended “Mid-level Nirvana: Achieving Channel Integration Bliss” at the 2021 Bridge Conference, you’d know what to do! Session speakers were Genevieve Paul, Director, Annual Giving at the National Park Foundation (NPF);  Kathy Swayze, President & Creative Director, Impact Communications; and Pete Carter, Principal & Senior Vice President, CCAH (and if you attended Bridge but missed the session, you can still watch the full presentation here).

Over 100 attendees participated in the virtual session and walked (or navigated) away with these takeaways:

Pete Carter, Principal and Senior Vice President
  • How to unify your message across digital and direct mail channels
  • Real-life tips on getting your agency partners and vendors to collaborate effectively
  • How to escape the mayhem and find nirvana (and more revenue) in a mid-level program

The NPF mid-level program is called the Champion’s Society, with membership beginning at $1,000 a year (or $100/month). Revenue has shown impressive year-over-year growth; this has been achieved with a collaborative approach to fundraising. Channel experts worked together to move donors up the giving ladder using truly integrated digital and mail strategies, with buy-in from membership, mid-level, and major/planned gifts staff.

Ensuring integration across channels is a reality, and not just wishful thinking begins with creating shared goals with channel-specific components. Then, as strategies emerge, maintaining open channels of communication is vital. These formal and informal meeting opportunities where ideas are freely exchanged require breaking down the walls that often divide us since defensiveness and territoriality ultimately will only hold us back from hitting our budget goals.

As ideas are developed, it’s important to avoid rejecting new concepts because they’ve never been tried before. For mid-level programs, in particular, fresh cultivation concepts are essential. Cultivating donors with special “insider” updates and appreciation messages will produce a glow of goodwill and lead to a long-term payoff from deepened relationships. 

For example – in November 2020 NPF leveraged a series of Thankful Thursday emails intended to show heartfelt and personal appreciation for the commitment shown by its donors. The final piece of this cultivation approach was our Find Your Park Friday, which is traditionally sent the day after Thanksgiving and encourages our park enthusiasts to find and visit their favorite park. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we needed to be nimble and switch gears a bit in 2020. So instead of a focus on in-person park visits, we encouraged members to find a digital way to interact with their favorite park – from taking a virtual tour of a park or “joining” other park enthusiasts on social media to share their park stories.

After November’s cultivation emphasis, the focus shifted to the most lucrative fundraising time of the year, starting with #GT and lasting through year-end. We call this our 31 Days of Giving. In December we leveraged both a match gift offer and a downloadable thank-you gift for contributions. The number of online and offline year-end contacts in 2020 increased over the past 3 years, as did file size. But this graceful “cultivation, then donation” approach, with more opportunities to give, did not generate a rise in donor complaints about contact volume. In fact, to our delight, we saw an increase in total year-end revenue for the Champion’s Society, up a total of 35% since 2017. What’s even more impressive is that while digital income grew dynamically in that time, direct mail was also up a bit – meaning digital largely represented additive, not shifted, income.

Other new ideas launched over the past year include a dedicated Champions Society ad campaign on Facebook, which is gaining traction with each passing month. Targets include former Champions Society members and new-to-file prospects. This is an important part of our channel agnostic approach to donor recruitment and reinstatement – allowing an increased investment in channels that show promising results.

Here’s a summary of the keys to nirvana recommended by Kathy, Genevieve and Pete:

  1. Set clear goals.
  2. Communicate!
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  4. Be nimble and be prepared to switch gears.
  5. Focus on the long-term return in relationship.
  6. Be channel agnostic.

To find more strategies and to work with our experts, reach out to work with us!

The Future of Digital Advertising

Preparing for a Cookieless Future

The only constant is change.

This mantra could never ring truer than for those of us who spend our days focused on digital advertising. With technology advances, shifts in policy priorities, and an ever-evolving user base adjusting its online activity, we know change is always around the corner.

But when you’re tasked with bringing in mission-critical revenue for some of the nation’s biggest nonprofits, you can’t be afraid of that.

The latest wave of change in the online ecosystem? The looming sunset of the third-party cookie. Or rather, the decision to retire support for it in Google Chrome (several other browsers have already retired third-party cookie support in recent years, citing privacy and other concerns). But with Chrome’s 65% market share (and 70% on mobile!) this decision effectively puts the nail in the coffin.

Last year, Google announced its decision to sunset support in Chrome in 2022, and since then a flood of bad puns have filled the advertising space and industry papers about cookies crumbling, half-baked tech responses, and other groaners. Google has since adjusted its timeline to delay this change to 2023, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start preparing now.

Why does this matter? First- and third-party cookies are a big part of what makes the internet function. They help websites deliver a customized web experience to you (think leaving an item in your online shopping cart), and they can ensure that the ads you receive (and that keep your favorite websites online) make sense for you as the individual.

We (Van Do, Senior Strategist, and Mike Crump, Digital Advertising Manager, along with Pete Ellard of Nexis Direct) were fortunate enough to present on what’s next in the digital advertising space without a third-party cookie as a part of DMAW’s Digital Week. (For a deeper dive than we’re able to fit in a blog post, take a look at our presentation here).

Here’s the thing though: despite a lot of chatter on the end of the third-party cookie, for 90% of your nonprofit advertising and fundraising efforts, you’re not going to see a real change.

You want to raise the most revenue for your programs, and the strongest direct results in the nonprofit world right now are generally coming from the “walled gardens” of Google, Facebook, etc, with robust first-party user data. Could this change? Sure. Soon? We’re not betting on that.

But there will be an impact on programmatic advertising like banner ads on websites, which use web signals (anonymous) and credentials to build out and fine tune user profiles for optimal ad delivery and to remarket. Historically, programmatic delivery has relied on third-party cookies that help connect a user’s web activity across different websites.

As we already noted, the third-party cookie has been on the decline for several years.

And the industry has been preparing for that. New tech like Google Turtledove and Privacy Sandbox have been under development to specifically address the sunset of the third-party cookie. And while those tools will take some time for full development and rollout, rest assured that they are on the horizon.

So let’s look back at first-party data, which is where we’ll need to focus in the short term.

What can you do right now?

  • Take a look at your access to first-party data. Are your Google Tag Manager and Analytics accounts fully set up to maximize data collection?
  • Look at your users. What additional information can you gain about your customers to tease out new targeting models? What are some overlying interests and demographics? What content sources do they follow? How can you use this information strategically?
  • Start testing. Start your testing now — if you’re quick you may even find some learnings that can be applied at year end.

What can you test? Some areas of opportunity to consider (and for more information on these, take a look at our presentation):

  • Native and Contextual Targeting to supplement programmatic display budgets
  • Direct buys with content creators utilizing their internal user data
  • Other data sources like IP targeting
  • Robust targeting lists from data vendors
  • Inventory from niche sites relevant to your mission

The TL;DR: If your organization is small or new, or otherwise has a small ad investment program, focus on high-impact, high-result channels first (Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Facebook & Instagram). Prioritizing these platforms while results are strong will limit the impact of the cookieless future on your program.

And for your programmatic and display budgets? Dig into the data and start testing! But don’t scale until you see results coming in to warrant a spend.

We’re always up for a discussion with other nonprofit professionals and marketers about digital advertising. You can reach me at mcrump@ccah.com or Van at vdo@ccah.com. For more information on how this may impact your organization, reach out to work with us!

Close-up Of A Person's Hand Marking Error With Red Marker On Document

How to Make Sure Your Message Is What Stands out in Your Writing

Here’s why picky Grammar Police Officers like me point out errors: because mistakes in written materials communicate the message that details just don’t matter. So if you’re writing a project proposal, a grant funding request, or a direct mail letter, and the reader gets the impression that you don’t care about details, your request won’t rise to the top of the pile.

Here are a few of the most common errors and some tips on how to avoid them:

Apostrophes are used to indicate possession and contractions.

  • First up: Possession: Jane’s dog. Abdul’s cat. The Robinsons’ car. One exception: its is how you spell this particular possessive pronoun … as in “When I put my sweater in the dryer, it lost its shape.”
  • Next up: contractions. Words like don’t and can’t use an apostrophe to indicate there’s a letter or two missing (do not and cannot). Another example is it’s which always means it is.
  • Note that apostrophes never make a word plural – so if your see a sign reading No Dog’s Allowed on the Playground, please do me a favor and sneak over at midnight and paint over that apostrophe.

Effect and affect.

Effect is either a noun or a verb – “The sunshine is having a positive effect on my mood.” Or “The only way to effect change is to make your voice heard.” Affect is also either a noun or a verb, but most commonly a verb: “I didn’t think his insult would affect me so much.” Or “Sometimes people in shock have a flat affect, where they don’t react at all.”

Fewer/less.

Use fewer when there’s a set number of whatever you’re referring to, and less if it’s vague. For example:

Wrong: Less than 100 people were in my graduating class.

Right: Fewer than 100 people were in my graduating class.

Right:  Since fewer people go to restaurants now, there’s less crowding.

i.e. and e.g. are not interchangeable

 i.e. is Latin for that is to say or in other words. e.g. is Latin for for example. E.g.:

Right: He brought all kinds of desserts to the party, e.g., ice cream, cake, and cookies.

Right: Chris had adopted their gender-neutral name and pronoun a few years ago, when they began to publicly identify as nonbinary, i.e., neither male nor female.

And please, always add a comma after either abbreviation.

Me, myself, and I.

As the proofreading website Vappingo says, “I is the doer, and me is the done to.” As in “After I have finished shopping, please pick me up.”

It seems like people often use I incorrectly, just because it sounds fancier, so it must be right. So often, it’s not. For example:

Wrong: The party invitation was addressed to Buddy and I.

Right: The party invitation was addressed to Buddy and me.

One way to tell what’s correct in this example is to remove “Buddy and” – that way, you’ll see that “I” doesn’t work.

A couple of general rules for using myself correctly: Myself is never used in a sentence that doesn’t contain the word I. And myself never takes the place of me or I.

Wrong: The meeting attendees will include Sherry and myself.

Right: The meeting attendees will include Sherry and me.

Right: Thank you, but I can do it myself.

Yes, there is a place for an automated Spell Check in your process...

but it’s not to check spelling! Spell Check is notorious for incorrectly “correcting” grammar and spelling, so don’t count on it for that. Instead, run a Spell Check after you’ve finished proofreading your document. It will help you clean up by finding extra spaces and repeated words you need to delete, problems with capitalization, and more.

Please don’t use what I call decorative quotation marks.

These quotation marks curiously surround a word for absolutely no reason. Here’s an example:

We went to lunch at a “soup and sandwich” place and I had the “Blue Plate Special,” while my mother had the $5.00 “Senior Lunch Deal.”

These quotation marks are unnecessary and make the sentence more complicated than it needs to be – some of the quoted words are regular words that are easily understandable. Others are already highlighted by being capitalized, so you don’t need the quotes. My rule: if you’re tempted to use decorative quotation marks, remove them and see if the sentence is clear without them. I promise you, it almost always will be.

Proofreading includes fonts and graphics.

Double check your consistency with headlines and subheads (are some all upper case, and some a mix of upper and lower case?) Also, if you’re using a Table of Contents, make sure the entries in the TOC match what’s in your document, and that the page numbering is consistent. Same goes for bulleted text, font size, boldface text, etc. Consistency is key.

Also pay attention to what might be missing.

Page numbers? Date? Signature?

And just a note about making your writing resonate.

Help your readers by making everything you write crystal clear. Assume that not everyone is familiar with jargon, so avoid it if possible instead of peppering your prose with terms people might have to Google. And it’s always a good policy to spell out all abbreviations or acronyms (at least the first time) so you don’t inadvertently leave your readers behind.

If you’re not sure about a word usage or grammar rule...

… remember the Internet is your friend. Sites like Vappingo, Grammarly, and my favorite: GrammarGirl (especially her Top Ten Grammar Myths), all provide easy-to-understand rules and examples.

One last piece of advice:

It’s much easier to spot mistakes in other people’s writing … so find a friend and help each other out. It’s harder to see the mistakes in a document that you wrote and are familiar with.

CCAH Spotlight – David Wolkin

Setting the Stage

You would be hard-pressed to find a colleague whose enthusiasm can best that of David Wolkin, Senior Copywriter. As one teammate put it: “He’s always ready to jump into the next project, no matter how large or small.”

Having worked at CCAH since 2017, David’s client roster runs the gamut of nonprofit genres, with him writing fundraising copy for museums, religious and medical organizations, as well as civil rights and animal welfare groups.

The variety provides David with a pathway to serving a wide range of missions that align with his own values. For him, “There’s something really special about being able to play a behind-the-scenes role in securing resources for so many different causes, so that they can be out there doing the work.”

Making a Difference

Building community is paramount for the clients of CCAH; in that respect, David is well-versed. After college, he worked at a Jewish summer camp, in charge of campers and counselors ranging from high-school freshmen to college students. His recollection of their respect for each other, and the sense of caring that they created at camp, inspired him to pursue a post-graduate degree in Jewish education.

David worked in the Jewish community for a decade after earning his master’s degree, seeking his own path as an educator. His mother was a grade-school teacher and his father was a rabbi, and while he admired their work, he didn’t want to take on their careers – instead he sought a hybrid of the two.

He was attracted to the relational and educational aspects of their roles and was moved by their ability to build community in their own ways. This drive to be of service to those around him inspired him to become a hospice volunteer, providing comfort to patients in the final chapter of their lives, in addition to supporting their families. “I don’t like the idea of anyone being alone in those times, and so if I can show up and help, that can lessen their challenges or struggles.”

Believe it or not, David’s background as a Jewish educator serves him well as a writer. “I spent 15 years trying to find the best ways to share an ancient tradition – one I love – with learners of all ages. You learn a surprising amount about effective messaging that way.”

Doing What Matters

David’s storytelling abilities have served him well in roles both past and current, and even though he spends his work week crafting narratives for his clients, he still finds more time to hone that skill outside of the office. He has performed with Story District, a Washington, D.C. organization that brings live storytelling to the stage, as well as providing the District with storytelling classes and training. When he isn’t telling stories, you might find him reading one – especially if it’s a comic book.

Whether he’s writing for a client, teaching on a Saturday at his synagogue, playing soccer with his Border Collie, Waffles, or planning adventures with his wife Keeli – a leader at the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN – David pours 100% of himself into the task at hand.

His ability to inject some laughter into the average conference call is lauded by his colleagues, and his dependability as a team member is well regarded. He doesn’t take his position lightly, though. “To go from being a Jewish educator to a copywriter, there’s no clear path”, he chuckles, “but I’ve been incredibly lucky.”

The Importance of CRM Address Hygiene Upkeep

We, as marketers, are very reliant on our CRMs. Our fundraising strategy, campaign performance, and donor analytics are only as reliable as our trusted CRM data. The upkeep of this data is time-consuming and requires staffing resources and ongoing investment. However, forgoing the proper maintenance will cause long-term detriment to the entire marketing program and be a costly investment to correct. One of the most important yet simple upkeep items is keeping constituent address information up-to-date.

On average, 9.8% of people move each year and 31 million people moved in 2019. While many data vendors and mailshops can perform National Change of Address (NCOA) on your file prior to it being mailed, there is a limit on how long this remains sustainable if the data is never updated in the CRM. For instance, the USPS offers two types of NCOA products: 18-month and 48-month. Depending on which type of product the vendor has access to (most common is 18-month), determines how far back they can capture address changes.

Now, let’s assume the CRM isn’t updated with address changes, the vendor uses 18-month NCOA and the campaign mails at Marketing Mail rates (previously known as Standard Bulk Mail). If the address change was within 18-months, it will be captured by the vendor; if it is after 18-months, the vendor won’t capture the change and the USPS will deliver the piece to the address at which the constituent no longer lives. 

This can cause long-term compounded issues:
  • In all likelihood, this constituent will continue to be mailed at an incorrect address in Appeals/Renewals for the next 6-18 months. This is not only a front-end expense (print, production, and postage), but also a loss in donor engagement and further giving opportunity.
  • If this constituent is pulled into a Lapsed or Deep-Lapsed segmentation then the same issues will occur as in Appeals/Renewals (above) and that could go on for several more years.
    • This will also cause lower reactivation performance.
  • Donor analytics won’t necessarily be reliable as constituents may have only stopped giving because they were no longer receiving solicitations. Meaning, analysis numbers, such as donor retention, could be artificially lower than they should be.
  • Acquisition lists could overlap with active/lapsed donors because the active donor address is stale while Acquisition list data is consistently updated.
    • i.e.: If the same donor gives to an Acquisition campaign then the constituent will be added to the CRM which will cause duplicates (one record with a wrong address and one record with a valid address).
There are several proactive measures to keep the CRM address data up-to-date, all of which are ongoing maintenance options:
  • If your organization runs a quarterly Acquisition Program then it is likely that you are supplying the merge vendor with active, lapsed, and deep-lapsed donors to match against the outside lists. The merge vendor can return the house NCOA updates which can then be updated in the CRM.
  • An outside data vendor can run NCOA on the entire universe or a subset of the universe (active, lapsed, deep-lapsed) which can then be updated in the CRM. It is important to schedule these updates at least four times a year.
  • Some CRMs offer add-on address hygiene and change of address tools to keep addresses valid.
If the CRM is already out of date, there are several options to validate existing addresses and update those that have changed. This is a necessary step before the transition to one of the maintenance options listed above:
  • If the CRM universe has been NCOA’d in the past 48 months then using an outside data vendor to run NCOA 48-month will capture constituents who have moved within that window.
  • If the CRM universe has not been NCOA’d in the past 48 months then there are providers that offer a Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) service. PCOA consists of address changes from outside sources such as: Utility Companies, Magazine Subscriptions, Credit Bureaus, Credit Card Companies, etc. Each provider has its own proprietary list and its retention-offering can range from 5-35 years. Most PCOA providers will also process NCOA 48-month at the same time.
    • PCOA can be an expensive service, mainly depending on total file quantity.
Once the CRM addresses have been updated then it is best to work towards isolating and merging duplicate constituents as there is a high chance duplicates have been created over time.

There are many other CRM data upkeep items that are just as important. Chapman Cubine Allen + Hussey will continue this series in 2021 to include items such as: deceased data appends, apartment appends, telephone appends, ECOA/eAppends, and demographic appends. If you would like help with your data processing needs, reach out to work with us. 

A difficult yet rewarding year.

$401,324,272.25.

That’s how much money Chapman Cubine Allen + Hussey helped our clients raise in 2020. The most ever in any of our firm’s 35 years.

2020 was an extremely difficult year for everyone … the pandemic and the life-threatening coronavirus … personal hardship in a topsy-turvy economy … massive unemployment … isolation and loneliness … a historically divisive political landscape … assaults upon civil liberties … and our electoral process.

But there was a silver lining. Despite the immense hardships faced in 2020, Americans united to support the causes that matter the most. 

Jim Hussey, Chair

In addition to raising more than $50 million to aid those impacted by the pandemic, and more than $36 million to support health-related institutions, including many that are addressing the coronavirus crisis, CCAH is especially proud of the role we played to defeat Donald Trump and elect Democrats up-and-down the ticket.

We helped the Democratic Party raise more than $166 million to elect President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Combined with our victories with the Clinton/Gore Campaign in 1996 and the Obama/Biden Campaign in 2012, this adds up to three successful presidential campaigns for CCAH President Kim Cubine and her team of highly seasoned political specialists. (It’s really five if you count Al Gore’s race in 2000 and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 … both of which won the popular vote.)

Other CCAH partners generated more than $50 million in the successful effort to retake the U.S. Senate, and an additional $15.6 million to elect more Democrats (especially women and people of color) to positions in the U.S. House of Representatives, and to state offices around the nation.

And during a year which saw the growing threat of racial intolerance gain the attention it has long deserved, CCAH was able to help its clients raise over $70 million for civil rights causes which … fought for the rights of all Americans to have their voices heard at the polls … and addressed the sickening rise of right wing intolerance, neo-Nazism, and antisemitism. We are also proud that CCAH raised $76.6 million for environmental and animal rights organizations, and other worthy advocacy causes.

None of this work would have been possible without the dedicated efforts of our more than 100 CCAH staff members, who operated from 14 states and persevered despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic and social distancing. Like the rest of the country, our employees left the office in mid-March of 2020 and coordinated all of these successful efforts from their homes without the benefit of office resources or face-to-face coordination with their co-workers. All of our partners and supervisors are incredibly grateful for their brilliant service and success. 

And their hard work will continue throughout 2021 as we look forward to the post-COVID era and continue to partner with amazing organizations to address the most important causes facing our nation.

CCAH Spotlight – Katie Chambers

Setting the Stage

“Katie Chamber’s positive attitude is actually infectious” according to Kim Cubine, and her colleagues all agree. The tireless work ethic and upbeat attitude that she brings to her daily routine have made her an indispensable member of the CCAH family.

On top of her role as an Account Executive working with clients, she is also a member of the company’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Committee, a writer for the company blog, and a resource for five other CCAH employees through the company mentorship program. How on Earth did one person wind up with so much on their plate?

“I have a hard time saying no to things,” she says with a laugh. And while her sense of duty might belie an even greater desire for change, Katie’s work – both inside and outside the office – has made her the natural leader that we at CCAH are fortunate enough to work alongside. 

Making a Difference

When she’s not helping her clients to reach their organizational goals, Katie is an ardent supporter of causes outside of CCAH. She has served as a coach for Girls on the Run, an after-school program that helps reinforce the connection between emotional and physical health for young women. She also volunteers, organizes with, and raises funds for Be the Match, an organization that connects patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood diseases with life-saving bone marrow and stem cell donors.

Most recently she’s found herself pounding the pavement with members of her community, demanding change to the systems of American policing. Her civic engagement is not so much a newfound passion as it is an extension of her upbringing. “When I was in middle school, my parents would reward me for good grades with trips to D.C., and we’d go to a Smithsonian … or I’d hang outside the Newseum waiting for politicians to sign autographs after they filmed This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Katie’s political passions continued through college and into her first job after graduation, where she worked as a field organizer for a Senate campaign. After that campaign cycle ended, she wasn’t entirely sure where she would end up, until she connected with a family friend who knew of an opening at CCAH. Katie applied “despite not really knowing anything about the industry,” and when she was called in for an interview, began studying up on the ins-and-outs of direct marketing. 

Doing What Matters

It’s no surprise that during this year’s annual company awards ceremony, Katie was the recipient of the CCAH Spirit Award, which is given to an employee who exemplifies the passion for change that we work for each day. Her positive outlook and boundless enthusiasm are contagious, and it’s because of Katie, and colleagues like her, that CCAH can deliver for our clients.

Katie’s work at CCAH encompasses so much more than just her daily client interactions and management of their various campaigns. Her work on the company blog helps to keep CCAH visible within the direct marketing industry, a crucial task in the current age with so many business interactions moving from in-person to online.

Similarly, her work on the DEI committee helps to ensure that all of her CCAH colleagues stay visible within the structure of the company. When CCAH announced the inception of the DEI Committee, Katie saw it as a natural fit. She had, before the committee existed, been working with her supervisors and management to address what areas CCAH might better serve our growing roster of employees. “CCAH is a great place to work for me, and I just want to make sure that’s true for everyone here.”

Fundraising During This Time of Turmoil

In times of upheaval, it’s not unusual for a nonprofit organization or a political candidate to temporarily suspend their fundraising solicitations.

During my 35-year career, I have witnessed several events that triggered many nonprofit causes to take such action, including 9/11 and the beginning of the great recession in 2008. 

However, the year 2020 is prompting a reaction previously unseen within the fundraising industry.

Jim Hussey, Chairman

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn caused many organizations to suspend their fundraising campaigns in March. Unlike the fundraising suspensions in 2001 and 2008, these interruptions were … and for some continue to be … much longer.

Following the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the murder of George Floyd was the catalyst for a new wave of protests in cities from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between – another reason to reevaluate fundraising campaigns.

And 2020 is far from over. The remainder of the year promises even more turbulence.

In addition to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, the troubling and divisive political situation within the nation guarantees even more tumult, especially during the final quarter of this year. The election in November, as well as its lead up and aftermath, may be the most politically contentious period in modern American history.

So what do we do? Should nonprofit organizations constantly suspend and revive their fundraising efforts with each new, dramatic event? No.

For the sake of the causes we care about, we must continue on the path forward and push through the storms we are facing. We must carry on.

Even the temporary suspension of solicitation efforts can set your program behind by months or even years. A fundraising program is like a train … once stopped, it takes much time and effort to restart it and get up to speed.

In addition to the immediate loss of income, the suspension of donor acquisition efforts will cause attrition, instigating major downturns in your donor file that will further impact your efforts in future years.

Control packages and language atrophy without the constant testing necessary to keep them viable, necessitating further testing and smaller rollouts when the program is reinstated, until confidence in the market is rebuilt.

Decisions to suspend fundraising often come from outside the development office, by supervisors who too often are cynical about fundraising, and view it as a necessary evil.

More must be done to educate our nonprofit leaders that fundraising is about more than asking someone for money. It’s about empowering the donor and providing them with a chance to address an issue which is important to them. Suspending fundraising operations denies them that opportunity.

Nonprofit leaders often believe they are doing a favor for their donors by giving them a break. In reality, the donors probably don’t notice. But once loyal donors move on to other organizations that are less reluctant to ask for their involvement and help, and it is incredibly difficult to bring them back to the fold.

It’s best to address major events directly. If everyone’s attention is directed toward a particular issue … acknowledge it in your copy.

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Your donors will not be angry with you for continuing to advocate for an issue that is important to you both, even in difficult times.

How are you fundraising right now? We’d love to hear how your organization has been reacting to and coping with 2020’s current events. Tell us in the comments!

Pivot Quick in Snail Mail

Right now, the world is changing at a rapid rate. With pandemics, changing work environments, and civil unrest amplifying systemic issues to catalyze important change, it can be difficult to figure out how tried-and-true direct mail best practices and anchor campaigns fit into this new reality. What do you do in the face of the unknown? What tools, tips, and techniques should you use when world events mean your program needs to pivot—and pivot fast—when you work in direct mail (DM)?

Step one: Talk to your digital counterparts

Discuss options to go live with the new messaging on your homepage, over email and social, and SMS and phone. These channels have an unmatched ability to get your message out quickly, as well as giving your organization the option to test language and more fully develop your plan of action for your donors as new details on the topic reveal themselves.

However, if most of your donors are direct mail responsive, aren’t mobile opted in, or if there isn’t much overlap between your email and DM programs, these channels alone won’t get your message to everyone that needs to hear it. If you do not have key techniques ready to implement so you can quickly and efficiently reach your direct mail donors, you will be missing out on a key group of supporters. It’s incredibly important that these people, too, know your organizational response to a changing environment.

Direct mail is not a beauty contest

So a simple and straightforward urgent message received in a timely manner is often more important than providing donors with a highly-produced, design-heavy package. If your mail schedule and cadence allow you to print new material, you can create a simple package to get your message to your audience. Many times, you can use an “urgent-gram,” which is pre-printed material that allows you to simply add your organizational messaging.

Rework what you’ve already done

Recoding data from a recent appeal or renewal can also shorten the time frame from creative development to your drop date. If you are able to truncate your art approval timelines, recoding data (which can mean faster turn times than starting from scratch) can allow you to get your message in the mail quickly.

Look at some production-focused strategies

These can include digital printing, duplex lasering, and multiple-window no-print envelopes, and all of these strategies can shorten timelines. In digital printing, you can print and laser your material all at once, bypassing the proof, or blueline, step of the process. Duplex lasering allows an organization to print material without finalizing their messaging before printing. This gives another week or two to allow a situation to develop, thereby giving you the most information at your disposal before finalizing your stance. By mailing in simple formats with stock that is readily available, you will improve your chances of getting in the mail as quickly as possible.

Have the option to change your signer

Often overlooked, but a useful way to cut timelines for some organizations: if a finance officer, director of marketing, or membership chair can sign instead of going all the way to a president or CEO for approval, you can shorten the timeline you need to vet a package but still ensure your organization’s unique brand and voice are maintained. If a package was planned with the use of a celebrity signer in mind, consider moving that tactic to later in your calendar and swapping in a mailing that needs fewer approvals so that you can move quickly.

But what if you’ve already printed, the signer is final, and your cadence won’t allow you to miss a mailing?

A buckslip can be a quick and easy way to add information to an existing mailing before it goes in the mail. While this does not allow you to tailor your entire message/approach to a mailing, in a pinch, it allows you to connect with these donors without missing a mailing or having to trash your printed material. For programs like acquisition where list clearances only last for so long, a buckslip can ensure your organization isn’t ignoring the current state of the world, but also isn’t missing out on needed funds to further their mission.

Direct mail means planning and working far in advance, but when your plans get turned on their head, it doesn’t mean you have no options. It’s important to make sure your donors know where your organization stands and to reinforce that you are being good stewards of your donors’ gifts—especially in unknown times.

Being able to act quickly gives you the best chance of reaching your donors, and having the ability to be the first in inboxes and mailboxes can make a substantial difference in your capacity to raise funds around a specific issue and keep donors informed. Allow yourself to pivot quickly, or at least, as quickly as we can in snail mail!

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