Paper Availability — Going From Bad to Worse

Paper is increasing in cost again!  And the timing to get paper is becoming longer and longer.

Custom stock and roll sizes can take several weeks to source as mills are running into the same issues as many other businesses: getting folks to come to work, fill equipment to run, and keep up with the demand.

The latest word is that by July 1, paper will see an increase of $4.00cwt (that’s $4 per 100lbs).

This would be an increase of 8% — an unprecedented increase. When a Mailshop gives an estimate of how much a job will cost your organization, paper typically represents 50%-60% of a quoted price. The remaining cost goes to labor, overhead, delivery, ink, folding, etc.

That means that with an 8% increase in paper, your quoted price for envelopes, letters, etc. will be about 5% higher than expected.  cwt

Shannon Murphy, Principal and Senior Vice President of Production

The Next Step

The dreaded word, allocation.

For those not familiar with how this one works, it basically looks like this:

Mills can’t meet demand. So they allocate inventory to printers and converters based on how much they buy and how much they have used over the last year.

Example

Let’s say company “A” bought $10,000 worth of paper in the past year. When put on allocation, they can only buy:

      1. The same as last year
      2. 90% of what they bought last year, etc.

The percentage they get will be based on supply.

The scary part is some printers could struggle to get paper. This is where suppliers’ strong relationships with paper manufacturers or merchants will play a key role in getting paper when needed.

How does this affect you? 

Factor in more time for projects. Getting paper will take longer, and of course with these announced price increases, it will cost more.

How Can CCAH Help?

    • We are starting early — making decisions on packages sooner so production can order paper before the art is released.
    • We’re talking with our production managers directly, asking about specialty stocks far in advance of wanting to use them.  We’re thinking about places we may have flexibility with the paper stocks we are using.
    • We’re being thoughtful on where strategy can change and where we won’t have wiggle room. Making major changes to package specifications midway through a job may spell big problems — if we have already ordered a special paper and the paper specs change — that original paper is still yours … the good news is you would have it available for your next mailing, or you could sell it to another supplier client if the need arose.

There is some uncertainty still, but it looks like the fall will be very similar to last year with paper challenges. Please plan ahead. And if you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send me an email at smurphy@ccah.com.

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Postal Increase Proposed

Postage has increased every year since 2012. Of course, no one wants to see rate increases, but these increases were nominal and capped at the consumer price index (CPI).

Last November, this changed when the Postal Regulatory Commission decided they were going to allow the postal service more flexibility in pricing for mailing services. Meaning the post office can raise rates above the CPI based on certain factors, like the growing number of delivery points a carrier delivers to 6 days a week, funding retirement for USPS employees, a penalty for underwater rates, and any unused rate authority from previous increases.

Friday’s proposed increase will be the largest we have seen in a one-year period in the last decade (or ever for that matter) — with an average increase of 6.8%!

But, the good news (if we can consider it that) is that the USPS will not be asking for an increase in January 2022 as they have in past years.

Shannon Murphy, Principal and Senior Vice President of Production

What does this mean for nonprofit organizations?

A significant increase in the cost per piece budget for all direct mail campaigns. In a typical campaign, postage accounts for 30-70% of total cost. That means in a program that spends $5,000,000 annually on direct mail, an increase like the one proposed (assuming postage accounts for 30% of total campaign cost) would add $340,000 in additional cost over the course of a year. Imagine if you spent double or triple that. Can your organization afford this?

So, what can organizations do?

Although the proposed increase is currently being challenged in the court of appeals, my advice is to:  

  • Adjust your budgets, the court decision could take a while. And this likely isn’t a one and done  chances are, we’ll see this again for the next five years, at which time the regulators will take another look at the rates.
  • Take a more critical look at how spend is allocated across your program: Is it optimized? Should you consider adding a new channel to your program?
  • Work with your agency or mailshop to analyze each mail file to sort to the best possible sort level. Even when that means splitting the file up between SCF, NDC and commingle. The more we can do on the front end to maximize sort levels, the lower the postage rate.
  • Test! For example, with the proposed increases, flat rates will crush your budget!!! If you have a 9×12 calendar, test a 6×9. Maybe you have done this in the past and found the larger calendar as the winner  but that was 10 cents ago. Ask yourself, do you really need to mail $50+ segments at first class rates? Maybe you’ll get similar results mailing third class. SRE’s are great and increase response  but will they give you the needed ROI when the additional 3 cents for first class postage is added?

With all that said, I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Direct mail accounts for a large portion of overall nonprofit revenue — for one organization CCAH works with, their direct mail fundraising accounts for 70% of their annual fundraising budget. 

Bottom line, it takes all channels for a successful fundraising campaign. Break down silos between channels to make decisions based on your organization’s key performance indicators and long-term goals.

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

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a topic that is at the very core of CCAH. But some may ask, “how are diversity, equity, and inclusion different?”

Diversity is the who and the what: who is sitting at the table, being recruited, and being promoted. Although organizations measure diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, or gender, the truth is diversity covers a much more comprehensive range of characteristics, such as disability, education, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic background, etc.

Equity is the fairness, accessibility, opportunities, and advancement of all people. Are we treating everyone equally?

MJ Johnson, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Administration

Inclusion is the how. Inclusion is the behaviors that welcome and embrace those differences by creating a workplace that allows everyone to participate, thrive, and contribute their best work while being their authentic selves.

“Diversity is a mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.” -Andres Tapia

In early 2019, CCAH formalized our commitment to the DE&I space. We are focused on our culture, practices, and client-facing approaches to uphold diversity, equity, and inclusion on all fronts. Over the last year, our dedicated DE&I committee has rolled out initiatives, formalized training, and encouraged meaningful and thought-provoking conversations. We believe in the power of diversity and inclusion to create a culture that is both welcoming and resilient. CCAH is committed to closing the opportunity gap by embedding a DEI lens in our agency’s culture and continuing to drive impact in the world. We are committed to building a sustainable, equity-driven, and inclusive work environment where diversity is celebrated and valued. For a diverse workforce to feel included and heard, you have to begin by facilitating conversations that cultivate understanding.

CCAH challenges you today on #WorldDayForCulturalDiversity and every day to:

  • Activate your activism
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone
  • Be aware of your own bias
  • Be an ally
  • Commit to learning & listening
  • Contribute to DE&I work, inside and outside of your workplace
  • Recognize your privileges
  • Champion positive change

At CCAH, we recognize and embrace that we all have something different to offer. CCAH will continue to use our voices and platforms to elevate issues such as racism, inequalities, sexism, bias, and prejudices to encourage dialogue that will influence and impact positive change in our country and around the world.   

Let’s keep moving forward together!

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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.

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.

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!