Able Australia has a challenging message to get across in its direct mail program, but recently did so with award-winning results. Chris Stallard explains their success, but before you start reading, you might want to put the kettle on.


Able Australia has a challenging message to get across in its direct mail program, but recently did so with award-winning results. Chris Stallard explains their success, but before you start reading, you might want to put the kettle on.
Campaign Objectives

Able Australia Services (formerly the Deafblind Association) currently mails donors five times a year. As direct mail accounts for over 45% of the organisation’s net fundraising revenue, Able relies heavily on its campaigns to perform well.

The 2008 tax appeal followed the normal strategy of mailing out in two waves (May and then mid June), but we wanted to give it that something extra to ensure that it was memorable and compelling.

Based on previous results, the initial mailing was forecast to raise $108,000, and the second mailing to generate $77,760, to achieve a campaign total of $185, 760 gross.

A Story Over a Cup of Tea

Some stories are hard to write. Perhaps our biggest challenge at Able Australia is telling stories that supporters can relate to. It’s hard to identify with someone like Shane, who is deafblind; I certainly can’t relate to a lot of the complications in Shane’s life, but I can relate to a cup of tea.

After initially interviewing Shane, I knew his story was compelling and one that needed to be told. He lived in a rundown nursing home with 50 other residents and staff all unable to communicate with him. He told me that he passed the time between visits from our support workers by walking around the corridors, always with his kettle and tea bags in the front of his walker.

Working with fundraising consultants Robe John & Associates, we realised that Shane’s passion for tea was a simple yet effective way for donors to stop, read and identify with Shane’s story.

Wave One Creative

The first wave dm pack consisted of a DL slip with a green tea bag attached and ‘Shane’s secret instructions’ on how to make the perfect cuppa. This really helped to humanise his story. To alleviate any donor concerns about mailing costs, we acknowledged the support of Twinings.

Shane’s story was also told in detail through a two-sided letter by our CEO.

The initial ask for many of our supporters was for $60 to provide support workers for people like Shane, though this was altered according to individual donation history.

Wave Two Creative

The follow up letter to supporters who hadn’t yet contributed was mailed in mid June and updated donors on recent changes in Shane’s circumstances, presenting a compelling case for support. The pack also included a letter that Shane had written with the help of our support worker.

Results

Overall, the campaign raised $315,336, which was $130,000 – nearly 50% – more than expected, and subsequently the appeal won the Chapter 1 FIA award for best renewal campaign.

Tax 2008 Wave 1 Results

Target

Actual

No. approached

12,000

12,395

% Response rate

10%

16.64%

No. responses

1,200

2063

$ Costs

$14,000

$17,570

$ Gross income

$108,000

$162,570

$ Net income

$94,000

$145,000

$ Average gift

$90

$79

$ ROI

$7.71

$9.25

Tax 2008 Wave 2 Results

Target

Actual

No. approached

10,800

10,063

% Response rate

9%

15.21%

No. responses

972

1353

$ Costs

$6,700

$10,470

$ Gross income

$77,760

$152,766

$ Net income

$71,060

$142,296

$ Average gift

$80

$92

$ ROI

$11.60

$14.59

Total Combined Campaign Results

Target

Actual

No. approached

22,800

22,458

% Response rate

9.53%

15.21%

No. responses

2,172

3,416

$ Costs

$20,700

$28,040

$ Gross income

$185,760

$315,336

$ Net income

$165,060

$287,296

$ Average gift

$85.52

$92.31

$ ROI

$8.97

$11.25

Key Factors for Success

The difference between a good story and a great story is significant when it comes to response rates and average gift amounts, and it was primarily due to the strength of the story that the campaign performed so well.

We used the second wave as an opportunity to continue the story, rather than it being a simple reminder to donate. Also, the creative angle of providing a tea bag really helped to engage donors.

Lessons Learnt Don’t be afraid to be adventurous with regards to creative. Including a tangible item that relates to the story can help draw people in. If you are including an item or product, ensure you get product sponsorship so as not to arouse concerns around campaign costs. Ensure your story is emotive and has a hook that people can relate to.

Able Australia won a 2008 Chapter 1 FIA Award for Excellence for Budget Renewal Direct Mail.