Alzheimer's Association Expects Control Piece to Bounce Back

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The Alzheimer's Association will continue to mail its control premium package next year despite lower than usual response for its winter direct mail acquisition campaign, viewing the decline as an aberration caused by the economy and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


"Most of our campaigns in the fall have not fared as well," said Daniel S. Doyle, director of direct marketing at Alzheimer's Association National Headquarters, Chicago. "Especially in our acquisition efforts we have certainly seen our response rates much lower than we projected in our mail plans."


Doyle would not say what the response rate has been, but said it fell short of its normal 3 percent.


"We mail the Monet notecard acquisition package once a year in the winter," he said. "This year it has not fared as well, but traditionally it is one of our stronger card packages."


The acquisition control package contains a two-page letter and a premium, which is five notecards featuring prints of paintings by Claude Monet. It has been a winter acquisition control for more than 10 years, and no other appeal was tested against it this year.


The letter ties Monet to Alzheimer's disease by explaining that Monet painted several of his masterworks when he was in his early 80s, a time so many are stricken with Alzheimer's. Though Monet did not have the disease, Doyle said the connection seems fitting.


In addition to the cards and letter, the package also contains two lists of tips for those directly or indirectly affected by Alzheimer's. The first features 10 warning signs of the onset of Alzheimer's, and the second gives 10 warning signs of caregiver stress.


A reply form and envelope are included in the package. The campaign cost 38 cents per mail piece including all materials, lists and postage.


The mailing consisted of 3.5 million prospecting pieces sent to donors as well as magazine subscribers and mail-order buyers. Doyle could not share the breakdown of quantities in these categories but said that historically the majority of files used were donor files. Lists for the winter campaign were acquired through the association's list broker Paradysz Matera.


Mail dates ranged from late December to early February.


The organization did not cut back circulation for the winter prospecting campaign. That decision stemmed from response history during the Persian Gulf War. At that time, Doyle said, results began to recover after about three months.


"We already see that things are starting to normalize," he said.


Of course, results from the fall and winter direct mail campaigns cannot be looked at the same way that previous year's mailings were analyzed.


"We're not looking at these results for forecasting," Doyle said.


Though he had not yet broken down response by list category for the winter acquisition mailing, Doyle said the response rate and average gift were down for all the organization's core lists in the fall.


He declined to say what list categories performed best in previous winter campaigns. He did say that though donor files often work best for fundraising appeals, Alzheimer's Association has mailed high-end magazine lists and catalog buyers successfully in the past.


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