We don't usually discuss politics in this e-newsletter, but today we're going to make a prediction about the 2012 presidential election. Yes, you heard it here first:
Between now and November 6th, there is going to be a deluge of election year fundraising mail.
OK, we really didn't go out on a limb there. Back in 2008, Obama alone raised $337 million from individual donations for the general election. And according to the Campaign Finance Institute, about one third of these contributions came from donors who gave $200 or less.
The question for those of us who are not raising money for a candidate is this: How is the 2012 presidential election going to impact my fundraising?
Here are some tips we learned four years ago:
Stay on Message
When everyone around you seems to be raising money on election issues, it may be tempting to go there, too. But unless you are in politics or advocacy, don't do it. Hopefully you've built a loyal group of donors who know and care about your cause. If so, they are going to want to hear about your issues, regardless of who wins the election.
Keep Mailing Your Donors
Because the quantity of election mail is so daunting, you may be tempted to just avoid the competition altogether by mailing less often. But donor behavior in the 2008 election year indicated that donors didn't substitute support for their favorite candidate for support for their favorite causes. Instead, those gifts were above and beyond their typical giving. So make sure you are still reaching out to your donors with messages that matter.
Don't Go Head-to-Head in Acquisition
It's critical to continue acquiring new donors. But if you use political lists in your prospecting, this might be a good time to modify your strategy slightly. Donors on these lists are going to be disproportionally impacted by political fundraising. So giving these lists a rest prior to the election may be a smart move.
Election Mail Comes First
Perhaps the greatest impact that election mail has on direct response fundraising is delivery. Election mail has first priority when it comes to nonprofit mail, which means it may take longer — much longer — for your letters to actually get into homes. The impact this policy has will be even greater in this election because the USPS has expanded political mail to encompass PACs, Super PACs and any type of advocacy mail for an issue or an election. Take that into account as you pick mail dates. And, if you are not already doing so, begin using the mail tracking services that letter shops now provide. For a relatively small cost, you can know when your mail actually arrives in homes, taking the guesswork out of understanding where you are in your response cycle.
The last word is this: Election season doesn't have to wreak havoc on your fundraising. Stick to the strategies and messages that resonate with your donors — and good luck!
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Commingling — Do I or Don't I?
Mention the word "commingling" and fundraising professionals may react with confusion or even fear. But the fact is this: Commingling can save your organization money and decrease in-home deliverability time. So why aren't more organizations commingling?
Primarily, people fear commingling because there have been problems with it in the past. But, over the past few years, the commingling process has improved and is now both fast and reliable.
Commingling is not that different from traditional mail. When a mail shop presents an individual mailing to the post office, the USPS merges that mail with all of the other mail it receives into a single zip string. Commingling shops do some of that work for the post office by merging different mailings together before they reach the post office and presenting them as one mailing. This enables each of the mailers to enjoy significant postal discounts that are generally only achieved with a very large volume of mail.
The mailshop schedules the pickup with the commingler much as it would with the post office. The commingling vendor picks up the mail and brings it to its secure facility and sorts it down to a saturation level. This makes it easier for the post office to process. Then, instead of receiving 3602s from the USPS, the mailer receives a report from the commingler that provides proof of mailing.
So what's the benefit? First, in-home time can be reduced by an average of three to five days from normal USPS processing. Second, postage rates can be reduced from $.15 per piece down to $.135 per piece — if not lower! That's savings that can really add up over the course of a year.
So consider testing commingling. It may decrease delivery time and expense.
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Never Too Early to Start Preparing for Year-end
For most of us, the summer is just starting. And whether you're having fun outside, enjoying the sunshine, or planning vacations, one thing is for certain — the end of the calendar year seems miles away. But the fact of the matter is, this is the perfect time to start planning.
Why? If you're like most groups, a large part of your revenue will be raised in November and December. Therefore, it's important you take the time to fully develop a complete strategy for the last months of the year in order to get the best results. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare:
We recommend mailing in the beginning of November and then again in early December for maximum results. The December mailing will act as a reminder or follow-up to November. In fact, a way to cost-effectively add December to your program is by printing the December components with the November effort. You can even use the same letter — simply add a note saying you wanted to make sure they had received it, and thank them in case their gift crossed in the mail.
Thank donors for their commitment to your cause, and let them know what work remains to be done. Let donors know that you and those you serve depend on their generosity, and that their support is truly appreciated. A great way to do this is to include a few of the past year's accomplishments that they already helped bring about. Knowing that their support has made a difference in the past will increase their likelihood of giving again.
At year end, donors will be bombarded with asks from numerous organizations, and, at the end of the day, they'll most likely give where they think they'll make the biggest impact and where they feel most appreciated for their support. Stand out by letting them know how much their support is valued. Whether it's sending a postcard, a program update, or making a quick call — these extra touches can pay off big at year end.
Lastly, don't forget to send out a series of emails leading up to December 31st. We recommend one the week before, followed by emails on December 30th and 31st. Let donors know they only have a little time left before the end of the year. If you can't do multiple emails, then at least send one on December 31st. Not doing so means you're likely leaving money on the table.
Thinking about these steps now will help year end go as smoothly as possible — and hopefully lead to greater results. Good luck!
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20 Years Is Something to Celebrate
Twenty years ago, first-class postage was 29 cents. The Internet was in its infancy. And the founder of Facebook was in elementary school. Twenty years ago, you could walk onto a plane without getting undressed first. Katrina was just a nice name. And Kay Lautman transformed the direct marketing division of Oram Group Marketing into Lautman & Company.
A lot has happened in the past 20 years. We at Lautman Maska Neill & Company are grateful that we've been able to ride the ups and downs of the last two decades with you — our colleagues, partners and friends.
July marks the 20th Anniversary of Lautman Maska Neill & Company and we have so much to celebrate. With you by our side, we've grown from a staff of 10, to a staff of 24. We've moved offices once and just completed our second expansion in our current space. And, we have our own proprietary statistical system — Insight.
Most importantly, we've had the privilege and the pleasure of raising hundreds of millions of dollars for wonderful organizations that are feeding the poor, caring for the elderly, educating future generations, preserving history and making our world a better place.
Thank you for letting us be a part of your history — cheers!
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Lautman Gives Back Featuring Bryan Evangelista
On June 10th, our very own Bryan Evangelista joined more than 600 other people in the 21st annual Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. A swim under the iconic Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland, not only is this 4.4-mile distance a test of endurance for athletes across the country, but more importantly a charitable fundraiser that has raised more than $1 million to date.
Over the past 21 years, net proceeds from the event have gone to The National Aquarium (Bay Restoration Project), The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Chesapeake Trust, CRAB: Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating and this year's charitable partner — the Maryland Chapter of the March of Dimes.
We are proud to announce that Bryan, along with 11 other members of the team he swims with and coaches, contributed over $3,000 to this year's event! After a day of sunshine and near-perfect water conditions, Bryan was the 116th person to complete the swim in a time of one hour and 54 minutes — placing 10th in his age group! Congratulations to Bryan on a terrific swim and for contributing money to a great cause.
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