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!

Thanks(for)giving

You take great pains to add a new donor to your file… And then what? It’s so important to make a donor feel welcomed and thanked! In addition to making them feel like a part of your organization, a thank-you can also serve as their tax receipt. And acknowledgement programs are not just good for donor relations, they can also benefit your organization!

Not only is it a best practice to send a follow-up thanking donors for their contributions, whether online or through the mail (or both!), sending a thank-you note also gives donors another opportunity to give. And it’s not too soon to ask—remember recency is the strongest indicator of likelihood of next action, in this case, to make another gift.

By reducing time to next gift, you’re able to upgrade donors into “multi-giver” status, grooming their giving habits before they become too solidified and tying them more closely to your organization and mission, and making them more likely to become long-term donors.

Acknowledgements also give you a great opportunity to create multichannel donors. Whether you’re including online gifts in your direct mail acknowledgments program (if you don’t already, start doing this!) or sending an email thank you to offline donors (food for thought: how often and quickly do you add emails and sync offline giving into your eCRM?), acknowledgements are an easy way to reach donors across platforms so they have multiple ways to interact with your organization. And, if they reply to an acknowledgment sent in a channel different from the channel in which they made their original gift, they have now raised their hand to receive communication through that medium as well.

It’s no surprise that multichannel donors are some of the best donors an organization can have, so it’s worthwhile to integrate acknowledgments and update your data infrastructure to allow it!

Now for some specifics:

  • To really cement a new donor’s relationship with your organization, try creating a welcome kit to acknowledge first time donors and ask for a second gift. These touchpoints, often direct mail packages, can include lots of information pertinent to new donors—brochures about programs and impact, an explanation of your monthly giving program, information about estate planning for future gifts, and even a member card! Welcome kits are a great way to show new donors that you appreciate their contribution to your organization. Welcome kits can be totally digital too—how are you sending your welcome to new donors over email? Organizations often send  a “kit” spread out over several emails, but you can also create a “supporter hub” landing page where new donors can find all that information in a single location.
  • Once donors are on your file, don’t be afraid to include an ask in your acknowledgments. Keep it soft, and make sure the focus of your copy is on saying thank you, but when given another opportunity—many donors will take you up on it and send an additional contribution!
  • No one has ever said, “stop thanking me so much”, so once you’ve made a basic program turnkey, test expanding your acknowledgments to include other channels like phone (think thank-a-thons, and prerecorded thank you messages from staff or your board) and SMS. Remember: peer-to-peer texting doesn’t require a previous opt-in, so you can text donors a short thank you and then ask them to opt-in for additional updates! (Though if you want to truly grow your SMS program, add an opt-in to your donation forms and reply devices to collect them upfront.)

Investing in an acknowledgement program is a necessity, not only for tax liability purposes and donor transparency, but also to constantly work toward building a better supporter experience and cultivating life-long relationships with your donors. Reach out to CCAH to work with us, and we’ll help you determine the best way to tell your donors Thanks(for)giving!

Brenna Holmes Selected for DMAW Board

We are very proud to announce our partner & SVP Brenna Holmes has been elected to the 2021-2022 DMAW Board of Directors. The Direct Marketing Association of Washington provides education, networking, and professional development programs to help foster a vibrant, growing, supportive, and informed direct response fundraising and marketing community.

At CCAH, Brenna became a partner this year, teaches in our “MBA” continuing education program for our staff members, and regularly speaks at conferences to help share what she’s learned with our larger direct response community.

In her eleven years here, she built our digital program from the ground up, and we know that with a position on the DMAW Board, she will bring the same energy and enthusiasm to helping shape the future of their educational programing.

Brenna is dedicated to bringing more multimedia, data savvy, and technical content to complement the already exceptional marketing and creative-based trainings that DMAW offers to its members. We could not be more proud and excited for Brenna in her newest endeavor in joining the DMAW Board, and we are excited to continue to have her expertise and dedication here at CCAH. Congratulations to Brenna Holmes!

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!

Remote Collaboration

At CCAH, many of our employees worked remotely even before the current COVID-19 crisis sent all of us to our home offices. Over the years we’ve learned some best practices for teleworking that can be applied now, but also whenever you have a teammate who isn’t physically in the office with you for any reason!

Turn On Your Video

When working from home, it can be tempting to dress as though it’s extra casual Friday every day of the week, and though this post won’t dive into the value of getting “dressed for work” even when you’re only going as far as your home office, it is a great idea to be presentable for the camera. Being face to face with your team, even when you aren’t physically in the same space, is nothing short of a necessity. Seeing each other allows for nuance, body language, and important conversational cues that just aren’t possible if you’re using voice-only communication methods.

Keep (Or Set Up) Standing Meetings

Without the opportunity to run into each other in an office, it’s important to keep in touch with coworkers! If you have a mentor or friend who you have lunch with, or a coworker on another team who you share ideas with, set up a weekly or biweekly chat so that you can keep talking! Similarly, if you have check-ins with your teammates when you’re in the office – individually or in groups – keep them on the calendar. Setting time aside to keep up with each other is a great way to keep remote work from feeling like a lonely endeavor.

Don’t Forsake Small Talk

When a meeting begins in person, there’s often a few minutes when folks are gathering that is taken up by that dreaded social phenomenon – small talk. But think about how many times a little non-work-related conversation in the middle of the day left you feeling renewed and a little more connected to whoever you talked with. That kind of social connection is vital when trying to maintain morale and collaboration from solo work environments! Use a few minutes as everyone joins a conference call to ask about everyone’s day or commiserate about the latest telework woe. Those conversations build relationships, and teams that know and trust each other do better work.

Use Group Chats

Many online platforms like Slack, Skype for Business, or Google, offer the ability to put your team in a good old fashioned chat room. This allows discussion to flow with buy-in from everyone, and helps to foster connection among teammates near and far.

Share Ideas and Brainstorm

Working from home can feel isolating, but one way to keep that at bay is to keep lines of communication open for new ideas and brainstorms. When teammates trust each other, it isn’t so scary to share new ideas – even when they might need a little work or be less than great. Any suggestion that doesn’t make it into the mainstream can still be a starting point for fruitful conversation!

Want to join the conversation? Work with us!

Welcoming New Partners to the Fold

This Women’s History Month, we want to take a moment to celebrate some truly outstanding women making history here at CCAH.

When it comes to the question of whom I surround myself with, people often tout the benefits of surrounding yourself with those who are smarter than you, and while I think that is one key ingredient to success … I think it is more important, as the President of this company, that I am not only surrounded by smart people, but that I’m surrounded by individuals that share our collective vision for this company — a vision of where we want to go and what we want to accomplish this next decade. 

It’s critical that I surround myself with individuals that not only share our company’s vision, but those individuals who have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today — and in the continued success of this company. 

For many years, I have had the pleasure of working with the best there is.  Individuals that I consider trusted confidants, valuable sounding boards, innovative leaders, and — very importantly — friends.

So, it is my sincere honor to announce that we have four new Principals at CCAH!  Join me in congratulating the incredible women who have truly dedicated themselves to making a difference:

Chrissy Hyre, Susie DeCarlo, Brenna Holmes, and Lynn Waller.

Check out their bios on our Who We Are page to learn a bit more about each of these impressive ladies!