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!

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Working Hard and Working from Home: How Remote Employees are Changing the Game

Over the summer, CCAH posted the blog you see below on working from home! We hope that in this time of increased telework, you find the tips and tricks from employees who were already working remotely to be helpful.

If you thought working remotely was just for bad weather days, you thought wrong! Across the country more and more companies are offering positions that allow employees to telework up to 100% of the time. Remote workers have limited distractions and enjoy flexible hours. 

What are the Benefits?

According to a study done by Indeed, 57% of remote workers feel more productive working from home than in the office and 38% of remote workers feel equally productive in the office and at home. And their employers agree! 72% of companies with remote workers say their remote workers are more productive when they’re at home. Some companies are even saving on real- estate costs by encouraging employees to work remotely. 

How do I know remote work will be successful on my team?

 Working remotely can work for anyone in any department, it just takes a little planning. We spoke with CCAH team members across departments and came up with a few tips to make teleworking successful for your team.

Tip 1: Be Accessible!

If you’re not in the office, its important to be available via phone and an instant messenger like Skype or Slack when email isn’t enough. Being accessible and over-communicating will help your team build trust and ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Rob in Data Management recommends keeping your calendar as up to date as possible to keep everything on track.

Tip 2: Separate your Work Space from your Living Space

When you work from home, it can be difficult to cultivate a work/life balance. Jessica in Production suggests creating a designated work space. It will keep you organized and ensure you’ve got everything you need to be successful during the work day.

Tip 3: Stay Organized

Remote workers don’t always live in the same time zone as their clients or company. Katie in Account Services suggests having daily check ins with your team to make sure everyone knows where projects stand. This ensures that nothing slips through the cracks and everyone can get support if needed.

Remote work policies allow companies to hire the best employees regardless of location and give team members a better work- life balance.  But remember, no team is the same. While we’ve found these tips to be helpful at CCAH, connect with your team to find out what works for them. Everyone succeeds when they feel supported and valued – whether they’re in the office, or 3 hours away. 

After Candy and Caffeine: How to Get Creative When You’re Out of Ideas

A deadline is looming. A blank page glares at you from your laptop screen. You’ve had three vats of coffee in as many hours, along with several pieces (it was boxes, but we won’t tell) of candy from a post-Valentine’s Day sale at CVS.

And still the answer eludes you.

Your project just needs that one big, brilliant idea. But you’re out of ideas!

You contemplate spilling your coffee on your laptop so you can tell IT that it broke and buy time while you wait for a replacement (or a stroke of genius) to arrive. You brew a fourth vat of coffee…

We’ve all been there. Many, many times. Channeling creativity can prove a challenge for anyone, no matter what field you work in or how seasoned you may be in your career. And if there’s a deadline (and there’s always a deadline), creativity can feel even more elusive.

But we have tips we’ve put to the test to get those creative engines running when your typical sources of fuel, like candy or coffee, are failing to ignite.

We asked CCAH staff in a variety of positions, from data and analytics to graphic design and production,  “How do you brainstorm when you’re out of ideas?”

While many ideas bubbled up*—some from under heaps of foil candy wrappers—one response emerged again and again:

Collaborate!

When you’re in a rut, bringing in reinforcements always seems to help. Recruiting a team with wide-ranging expertise and experiences can be just what you need to get unstuck.

“When I’m out of ideas, I turn to my coworkers for inspiration!” said Rebecca Barton, Account Representative. “We have so many creative people who are doing innovative package techniques, so whenever I hit a roadblock, I will ask the people around me what they think and, through that collaboration, usually find exactly what a package was missing.”

How you collaborate is also important: Creating a space where everyone can contribute freely and openly will likely yield the best results.

“I’m a fan of collaborating with others. I think the key is creating an open conversation where everyone can share whatever goes through their mind — the good and terrible ideas, stuff that is inside and outside the box,” said Will Kraiger, Vice President. “Sometimes even the terrible ideas shed light on something that can move the conversation to the right place.  You can always reject, edit, and refine things after the brainstorm is over.”

But what if there’s no one else around? We hear you, remote employees! If you can’t get a group brainstorm together, here are a few other ideas to turn to when ideas are what you need.

Do something totally unrelated to the task at hand.

Take your dog for a walk, do yoga, draw, or just work on a different type of assignment. Engage in anything that lets your brain take a break from the challenge but keeps you engaged.

Do nothing.

Well, almost nothing. Meditate! The benefits of mindfulness are well documented, so we won’t recap them here. But, om my, meditation came up enough times in our informal survey that we’d be remiss not to add it to our list.

Go outside.

A change of scenery can bring a change of perspective and help you get out of your headspace. And if there are downsides to sunlight and fresh air, we’ve yet to hear of them.

Keep an idea bank.

Always be prepared. Chances are, most of us will hit a creative block at some point in our work. So it’s helpful to keep a running list of creative concepts and ideas you can go to for inspiration whenever you’re stumped on a particular challenge.

Whether it’s deep breathing or sipping tea, doing Crossfit or watching “Brain Games” on National Geographic, we uncovered countless ways our staff tap into their creative energy. But above all, collaboration is—for all of us at CCAH—at the very heart of the process. It’s how we spark ideas, spur innovation, and find creative solutions to the tough challenges. Want to join the conversation? Work with us!

*Disclaimer: Our tips for channeling creativity have not been scientifically tested, but they have been personally attempted by at least one or more CCAH team members who seem to like them. However, we believe you should always talk to your doctor before taking up new activities or quitting caffeine.

CCAH Annual Putt-Putt Tournament

It’s summer, which means one very important tradition is about to happen at CCAH: CCAH PGA. This annual putt-putt tournament is a staple of CCAH culture and has been around for almost as long as the firm itself.

It’s also the largest athletic competition of the year at CCAH, which means that participants of all ages, abilities, and affiliations brought their A-game to this Friday festivity.

“If I’m going to win anything at CCAH, it’s this,” said Trent Cubine, a summer intern and CCAH PGA hopeful. With putt-putt legend and two-time champion Sean Coogan out of the office on Friday, this tournament was anyone’s game.

CCAH PGA founder and facilitator (as well as CCAH Chairman and Partner) Jim Hussey made it clear that competition is not the focus of the tournament. “It’s been a good opportunity for team building, to take a break from things,” Hussey said.

The long history and continued excitement around CCAH PGA is a testament to the tournament’s success. “We started this tournament twenty years ago,” Hussey said. “It’s actually been going on longer than some of the participants have been alive.”

Maryann Chan attempts to extricate herself from the office area of HR Coordinator, Chastity Morris.

Account Representative Cindy Edward was a CCAH PGA first-timer hoping to make a strong entrance to the field. Though she began with a strong start putting through the hallway by the printer, she started to tally up the strokes in the lead-up to the front desk area. When asked about whether she had high hopes about making it to the finals, Edward responded “definitely not. It’s like poker, where when you first play, people are like ‘you did really well’ but I think this is kind of it. I’ve lost my touch.”

Many competitors dressed for the occasion, though opinion varied about which type of attire was optimal for the tournament. Account Executive Maryann Chan wore a pragmatic, professional combination of golf shirt and golf skirt, a traditional putt-putt outfit for her. Intern Trent Cubine wore a golfing glove to avoid blisters, though he was seen playing without it in the championship round.

“You’ve got to dress for the green,” said Senior Acquisition Planner Steve Paddock. “I’ve been looking for an opportunity to wear my Figment the Dragon socks for some time now. If not today, then when?”

Once the top six competitors had been determined by pool play, it was time for the course to receive some … improvements. Among the additions to the course were a barrier of pink packing peanuts, an inflatable ninja, overturned office chairs, an ornamental rug, several binders, and a plastic skeleton.

The first competitor to make it through a tricky gap by Account Rep Kyra Rogan’s desk, Kopf said that that was the moment he started to think he might have a chance to win it all. “As long as I could hit it over the leg of the plastic skeleton without it bouncing back into Shannon’s office, I thought I would probably be in the clear,” he said.

Kopf landed the shot and putted his way to the course’s end, followed by Erin Devost in 2nd and Trent Cubine in 3rd.

The only contestant under 21, Kopf appreciates the irony that he won the grand prize of a gift card to The Punchbowl Social, a popular late-night destination in Arlington. “Fortunately, they have plenty of food there too,” Kopf noted. 

After the competition was done, the course disappeared as fast as it had materialized. But don’t think that the excitement of CCAH PGA is gone.

After all, CCAH PGA 2020 is just around the corner. 

Catherine Algeri prepares to round the final corner in the championship round, while spectators, officiators, and other competitors look on.

LCV 2019 Capital Dinner

CCAH is proud to work with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), an organization that fights for the environment, making it a political priority. They focus on “meaningful action to combat climate change,” fighting to maintain the safeguards we have already established as well as championing new laws and protections to further support our future.

CCAH was honored to attend the League of Conservation Voters’ Capital Dinner at the Hyatt Regency in DC this past Wednesday as they celebrated a year of unprecedented victories on behalf of our earth — even as they fought against unparalleled opposition to environmental action. The speeches from LCV leaders, such as Gene Karpinski and Carol Browner, and environmental champions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO), made the night a true celebration of environmental victories, as well as a reminder of the need to keep fighting. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted in her address, LCV has been “the driving charge” in defending our environment for 

the last 49 years. 

Despite their tireless work and that of other advocates for the protection of our environment, there is still much work to be done – particularly in the face of the current political administration. Optimism shone through when considering the milestones that have already been accomplished, but this feeling was dovetailed with urgency and the need for greater and more drastic changes to prevent impending, irrevocable climate catastrophes. Environmental stewards were recognized and awarded, and dinner was environmentally friendly and locally sourced, perfectly complementing the night’s theme.

CCAH recognizes that it is only through constant and dedicated work from all of us that we will achieve a lasting and beneficial impact. We are proud to be able to support such an important organization as they approach their 50th year supporting environmental action. With lights the color of PMS 7725 and LCV’s new logo all around, the night was a beautiful tribute to all they have accomplished this past year, and an important reminder that Our Earth Is Worth Fighting For.

CCAH Spotlight – John Wanda

John Wanda has always been fascinated by the people who shaped history: their personalities, their characters, and the way they overcame adversity and the challenges thrown at them. He made it his mission to understand what made great leaders.

Setting the Stage

Growing up in Uganda, John never saw himself getting into direct marketing, as it didn’t really exist there; he went to college for accounting, eventually moving to the United States before finding CCAH, where he has worked for the past thirteen years. He started in an accounting position and is now a principal and vice president for finance. His role has evolved into financial management, budgeting, forecasting, and keeping up with regulations. In John’s words, he works to ensure “that our company is in the good and clear, because you can have a great company, but if you don’t have good books and good accounting and good tech systems, you can still run into trouble.”

John has seen CCAH expand from 44 employees to over 90. He has watched it evolve from a company that was mainly direct mail focused to a company on the cutting edge of direct response marketing. However, what he enjoys most about working here is the opportunity to help so many great organizations raise the money they need: “it’s good to feel like you’re helping to play a role in making our world a better place every day.”

Making a Difference

John is passionate about making a difference. Prior to coming to CCAH, he worked at a DC-based foundation that supports the conservation of rainforests in his home continent of Africa. Working at CCAH, he was able to continue to support this passion while also supporting others — from championing good, viable political candidates and supporting important causes outside the mainstream, to benefiting environmental organizations that do work near to his heart.  As John says, working here has allowed him to see that “people don’t leave [changing the world] to the government, they don’t leave it to others, these are individuals who are willing to give significantly to support the causes they care about.”

John is one of these individuals. The organization that means the most to him is the one he and his wife, Joyce Wanda, founded together: Arlington Academy of Hope. Arlington Academy of Hope serves to build a foundation of hope in rural Uganda by raising money to send children to school. The organization has grown to one with a budget of $900,000 per year, and they have successfully raised more than $7 million to help more than 20,000 children go to school. He explains, “I know that a simple act of kindness can actually change a life, and if we all can do a little bit of that every day, we can transform so many lives around the world.”

John explains that providing these students with the opportunity for education “has shown our community that our kids are just as capable as other kids in Uganda, and given the right resources and support, they can compete with anybody.”

John and his wife grew up in very difficult circumstances. They know firsthand the challenges these kids face — those faced at home to those faced going to, and staying in, school — so when they found themselves in the United States with new opportunities, they wanted “to use the resources and connections [they] found to support the kids back in Uganda.” They realized they “could do a lot of good for their community.” And they are not alone: every year, more than a thousand donors contribute to and support the work of Arlington Academy of Hope.

Doing What Matters

John Wanda puts his all into the things that are important to him, and while he is undoubtedly passionate about the work he does at CCAH and the time he spends with family, Arlington Academy of Hope is the thing that makes him “smile every day, wake up every day, and set goals every day.” This work fulfills him, not only because of what it accomplishes, but also because it combines his work, family, and community — the three things that truly inspire him.

Growing up, John read about the great leaders of our world and the way they shaped history to make the world a better place — John can now take his place among them. Really, no one could say it better than John himself:

“Everybody has different things that make them wake up and do what they do, and that is good — it’s just that anytime you add something that helps others, that is what makes it more powerful. You’re not doing it for yourself, you’re not doing it for your kids, you’re doing it for the world, and that just makes it so much more powerful.”

 

Working Hard and Working from Home: How Remote Employees are Changing the Game

If you thought working remotely was just for bad weather days, you thought wrong! Across the country more and more companies are offering positions that allow employees to telework up to 100% of the time. Remote workers have limited distractions and enjoy flexible hours. 

What are the Benefits?

According to a study done by Indeed, 57% of remote workers feel more productive working from home than in the office and 38% of remote workers feel equally productive in the office and at home. And their employers agree! 72% of companies with remote workers say their remote workers are more productive when they’re at home. Some companies are even saving on real- estate costs by encouraging employees to work remotely. 

 

 How do I know remote work will be successful on my team?

Working remotely can work for anyone in any department, it just takes a little planning. We spoke with CCAH team members across departments and came up with a few tips to make teleworking successful for your team.

Tip 1: Be Accessible!

If you’re not in the office, its important to be available via phone and an instant messenger like Skype or Slack when email isn’t enough. Being accessible and over-communicating will help your team build trust and ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Rob in Data Management recommends keeping your calendar as up to date as possible to keep everything on track.  

Tip 2: Separate your Work Space from your Living Space

When you work from home, it can be difficult to cultivate a work/life balance. Jessica in Production suggests creating a designated work space. It will keep you organized and ensure you’ve got everything you need to be successful during the work day.

Tip 3: Stay Organized

Remote workers don’t always live in the same time zone as their clients or company. Katie in Account Services suggests having daily check ins with your team to make sure everyone knows where projects stand. This ensures that nothing slips through the cracks and everyone can get support if needed.

Remote work policies allow companies to hire the best employees regardless of location and give team members a better work- life balance.  But remember, no team is the same. While we’ve found these tips to be helpful at CCAH, connect with your team to find out what works for them. Everyone succeeds when they feel supported and valued – whether they’re in the office, or 3 hours away.