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Postage Rates Will Officially Increase

The PRC has approved the rate increase to take place on August 29, 2021.  Postage rates will be increasing by an average of 6.8%.

6.8% is made up by adding the Consumer Price Index (CPI), funds for retirement costs, a “density” factor (delivering less mail to more homes), and another tenth of a percent because they it wasn’t used during the last postage increase. This is not the last time you will see an increase like this – expect to see it again in 2022 and beyond.

The Postal Service calculates what they determine to be the rate authority granted by the PRC’s formula, and then consider the minimum they will need from this to mitigate lost income. After this consideration they determine how much they believe they can increase rates. Then this  authority is used to propose a rate case for the PRC to approve. 

The rate increase varies by class of mail, sort density, and piece size.

Shannon Murphy, Principal & SVP of Print Production

Nothing has changed in the rate case filed at the end of May – it’s just been approved. There are things you can do to help mitigate the increase.  

  • The Informed Delivery Promotion that starts on September 1 will give you 2% off your letter and flat mail, at least through November. 
  • You should also consider removing bad addresses from your files – ACS users still generally find 1% – 2% undeliverable addresses even after NCOA processing. 
  • Run your data files through PCOA also. Just because people are moving doesn’t mean they are reporting it to the USPS.
  • Make sure you get your flat work out by August 27, 2021.

To learn more about this change and what it may mean for your and your organization, you can see detailed rate charts here: https://www.ccah.com/usps-price-increase-2021.pdf

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

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!

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!

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!

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!