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!

February Mini Spotlights

CCAH is full of superstar employees who are going above and beyond to make the world a better place. Whether they’ve worked here for 20 years or just one, every person has the opportunity to make real change. We decided we wanted to show off these go getters with our new mini spotlight series! Each month, we will be highlighting employees on our social media pages who are doing incredible things, both inside and outside the office; however, if you missed any posts, have no fear! Check out a recap of our mini spotlights for February below! In honor of Black History Month, we are excited to celebrate some of the coworkers we are lucky enough to have work with us at CCAH.

Quentin Patrick

To start off our #CCAHSpotlight Black History Month series, we are excited to feature the face of CCAH, Quentin Patrick. Quentin has been the Office Administrator at CCAH for over 20 years! When he is not caring for our staff, he is mentoring inner city youth, biking the national mall, and advocating for civil rights. His favorite memory at CCAH is creating holiday cards for the White House during the Obama Administration. We are beyond proud to work with this independent, reliable and committed coworker who goes above and beyond everyday to make CCAH feel like home.

Alana Ralph

We’re continuing with a creative superstar: Alana Ralph! Alana has been working at CCAH for 5 years as a Production Designer. In our art department, she is a design force. Her art has spanned from assisting with Nasty Woman buttons for Hillary Clinton’s campaign to designing t-shirts for stuffed animals going to pediatric patients. Getting to do work for causes that align with her beliefs isn’t all she does. Outside of the office, she is an incredible mom to her 3 year old daughter and the owner of an Etsy store where she creates invitations and stationary that are works of art. We are incredibly proud to work with such a dedicated, inspirational, creative coworker who brings our clients’ work to life.

Jessica Acheampong

And we’re closing out this mini spotlight series with a Direct Mail rock star: Jessica Acheampong! Jess has been working at CCAH for over a year as an Account Representative. When she is not helping her clients save the world one donor at a time, she loves watching Hamilton on Disney+ (she’s seen it more than 10 times!), celebrating her Ghanaian heritage with family, and spreading cheer wherever she goes—as her supervisor says, “Jess’ positivity and infectious smile can brighten even the dullest of days!” We are beyond proud to work with this exuberant, versatile, and passionate coworker and cannot wait to see what she does next at CCAH!

As the month comes to a close, we want to give a big thank you to these CCAH Superstars and February’s Mini Spotlights!

Reflections on Inauguration Day

The Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States and the historic swearing in of the first Black and Indian-American woman as Vice President is an extraordinary day that we will all remember for years to come. CCAH is closed so that our staff can celebrate this day, January 20, 2021. 

Many CCAHers volunteered for campaigns across the country – we texted, phone banked, wrote post cards and some even canvassed to see the historic victories of this last election cycle come to pass. But I also want to congratulate the many CCAH teams that worked around the clock for clients that helped bring home those wins. From our accounting team, to designers, to copy writers, to the data team, the text and mobile teams, acquisition list team, client services, and production – job well done.

This cycle, we broke records and made a difference in the outcomes of key races across the country as individuals and on behalf of our clients. CCAH teams helped make these things possible:

  • Sent 10.5 million pieces of voter mail to Georgia Democratic voters, resulting in the registration of at least 145,000 new voters

  • Saw the most successful November and December fundraising months ever for a Democratic Committee client, which directly helped fund expansion of their voter contact work

  • Worked with a racial justice client to talk to155,000 Black voters in Georgia to ensure they knew how to early vote, where to go, what to bring, and what to do if their rights were threatened

  • Sent hundreds of thousands of voter safety packages into communities of color in key states across the country containing masks, sanitizer and voter protection information on behalf of a client

  • Raised more than $104,000,000 for the Biden/Harris campaign

  • Produced and mailed over 10 million voter registration packets in several key states

While we take today to celebrate, we must not forget that the goal of elections is not just to elect new leaders, but to elect leaders who will create the change our country needs.

After today, we jump right back into the hard work of helping our clients fund their critical missions tackling some of today’s most pressing issues. Through the hard work of committed groups and with leadership in the White House, House, and Senate that reflects the fundamental goodness of the people of our nation, we will work to secure a livable planet for future generations, make our world a more humane place for animals, cure life-threatening diseases, and create a just and equitable society for people of all races and religions.

January 21, 2021 will mark the day that America starts on a new path, and CCAH is honored to have played a role in getting here. We look forward to working with our partners to achieve great things!

Seven Reasons to Love the Mail

At CCAH, it’s a given that we love mail. But, shockingly, we discovered that not everyone has an innate love of one of the key methods of direct response. In the new year, we decided to set the record straight so everyone goes into 2021 loving the mail as much as we do. Here are our top 7 reasons—though there are of course MANY others…

Screen Breaks!

For many people, more time at home these days has also meant more screen time, whether it’s watching Netflix®, holding meetings on Zoom, virtual happy hours, or being glued to a news feed. That’s left many people taking “screen breaks” when they can. Mail is a great way to get your message in front of your audience without keeping their eyes on a screen.

Reinforcement

As giving expands in the digital space, direct mail still affords an opportunity to reinforce your brand and your message, even if donors who receive your mail piece ultimately choose to make their gift online. Multichannel donors tend to be the best donors, and the mail offers another chance to connect with them.

Revenue & Retention

For many organizations, direct mail still pulls in the bulk of individual donor revenue with better retention and ROI than face-to-face or digitally acquired donors.

Prime Real Estate

There is more real estate in direct mail packages, offering greater opportunity to make your case for giving, show your donors their impact, and say thank you! Content-rich, mission-focused printed material like Annual Reports, Calendars, and Newsletters are valued by donors and don’t often translate as well to the digital space.

Reach Supporters Where They Are

More folks may be at home more often, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a laptop, mobile device, or internet access. Nearly everyone has access to the mail, however. So direct mail allows you to reach more supporters who either can’t give digitally or don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Timely and Relevant Communications

The mail provides an opportunity to show appreciation for donors in these turbulent times—with nonprofits sending branded facemasks, gloves, activity books, and other useful items in the mail. According to experts, the mail is not likely to spread COVID-19. And since bulk mail stamps are machine affixed, there’s even less reason to worry.

Staying Power

People will hold onto fundraising mail to donate at the end of the month when they write out checks to pay monthly bills. We see this in the “long legs” that many direct mail campaigns have. Email doesn’t have the same staying power—it’s easy to delete or scroll past, and folks aren’t likely to sort back through old emails to donate. The bulk of email donations are made within the first few hours, but direct mail sticks around, meaning it offers two points of connection: one when a donor first receives it, and again when they return their gift several days, weeks, or even months, later!

In the end, a direct mail program is entirely what you make of it! If you use industry best practices and find the best ways to reach out to your donors where they are, mail has the chance to make all the difference for your organization. For help kick starting your direct mail program or to revamp one you already have, reach out to work with us!

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!

Want to join the conversation? Work with us!

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Client Spotlight: the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation

CCF_Logo_V_Pos_4CThe Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer-fueled organization dedicated to finding cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. CCAH began partnering with the Foundation on their direct marketing efforts—direct mail and digital—in 2017, just as the Foundation was celebrating their 50th anniversary.

The Importance of KPIs

You may read that title and say “I know this already, I use KPIs, All. The. Time.” But do you? A lot of people treat KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and Metrics as the same thing. BUT THEY ARE NOT.

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Planning for the Unknown

20180508_134226-404976-editedDirect marketers thrive on using past experience and collected data to develop robust fundraising plans for the organizations we work with. That is easier at certain times than others. We all understand the importance of implementing best practices, tried-and-true campaigns, and anchor efforts, but what about when you are faced with the unknown? What tools, tips and techniques should you use to be prepared to pounce when an opportunity arises, and maximize those efforts?