Bowery Mission's Mailer Has Some Bite

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New York's 124-year-old Bowery Mission is receiving a higher average gift from its annual fall new-donor campaign in part because of an unusual "Thanksgiving Sandwich" direct mail piece.


The mission's mail pieces usually use a traditional appeal letter -- but this year, the mission tried a self-mailer shaped like a sandwich with a bite taken out of it.


"We wanted to try something different," said Glenn McKinney, director of development at the mission. "We loved the mail piece and the phrase 'Take a Bite Out of Hunger' because we thought it would stand out in the mailbox, catch people's eyes and express the work of the mission."


The mission, in the city's Lower East Side, offers meals, shelter, showers and clothing to people living on the street.


"Less than a month out, we have already seen over 100 responses, and an average order of $32.40, which is very promising," McKinney said. "Normally for new donors the average gift is about $25."


The goal is for 1,000 responses by Thanksgiving.


The mailer dropped Oct. 10 to an 80,000-count prospective donor list. It was created by Strategic Consulting, Alta Loma, CA, a fundraising consulting company for rescue missions that also handled list management for Bowery. Recipients came from food, health, retirement and Christian fundraising lists.


McKinney saw a similar mail piece at Strategic Consulting's booth at the National Convention of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions in Washington in May and decided to work with the group, as opposed to the company it usually works with.


The mail piece opens into three parts. On the top is a note by Bowery Mission president Ed Morgan. It asks recipients for "your help to serve thousands of emergency meals to hungry people and provide hundreds of food boxes to poor families."


The bottom two-thirds includes the reply card and postage-paid reply envelope. The reply card includes four preset donation amounts and a space where people can enter their own amount. Recipients pay by credit card or check.


Strategic Consulting worked with 39 other missions that used the "Take a Bite Out of Hunger" mailer this fall. Pieces were customized for each mission with individual copy and contact information. In some cases, the mission wrote the copy; in others, Strategic Consulting did.


That the mail piece was created for dozens of missions and sent in bulk kept the cost down.


"We had to run all of the pieces at the same time in order to get the lower cost," said Ken Click, president and founder of Strategic Consulting. All mailers were sent from Oct. 10 to Oct. 25, he said.


McKinney said Bowery's cost was $3.80 per 1,000, which is less than the mission's typical $4.15 cost per thousand.


"Not only is it a highly creative piece, it is very cost-effective, too," he said.


Some missions used the piece as an insert in newspapers or in shopper-type mailers, and others used it as a direct mail piece. Strategic Consulting sent 850,000 direct mail pieces for the 40 missions and inserted 15 million pieces into shoppers and newspapers.


Strategic Consulting worked with printer Mail-Well to create the mailer.


"Mail-Well invested literally $32,000 in adjusting and modifying their equipment to see this through," Click said.


In keeping with the sandwich theme -- and to avoid mailing at the higher Customized MarketMail rate -- all the pieces were sent in clear plastic baggies specially made to meet the U.S. Postal Service requirements.


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