Animal League's 'Heart' Mailer Beats Stronger With Donors

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An interactive direct mail campaign by North Shore Animal League America featuring heart-shaped pet tags tested well with donors, but the performance tailed off with the prospecting side of the effort.

NSAL America, Port Washington, NY, is the world's largest no-kill pet rescue and adoption organization. It finds homes for nearly 20,000 dogs and cats annually.

The mail test went to 20,000 donors and 50,000 prospects selected randomly from 20 core lists in January. The donor list garnered a 6 percent response rate while the acquisition side got a 1 1/2 percent response.

This led to the mailing being put into rotation and sent nationwide to 200,000 donors last month. It was not sent to prospects because of the lower response rate and the costs involved.

"The cost for the mailing was a little bit higher, so although in acquisition it did OK on a gross, it wasn't enough to cover the cost," said Lisa Wilson, director of development for NSAL America. She did not provide the mailing's exact cost, though part of the expense resulted from the pet tags.

Wilson also said donors may be more interested in participating in the interactivity of the mail piece versus prospects because "they know North Shore, they know the shelter and they know the animals."

The "Number 1 Pet" campaign included a postcard with the two small metal pet tags glued on; a letter; a pledge form; and a business reply envelope.

On the front of the tag was the phrase "#1 pet," and on the back was "A Gift from NSAL America." The heart-shaped tags were created by Capital Design, Rumford, RI, a supplier of freemiums, which are promotional items used in direct mail campaigns.

NSAL America asked donors to return one-half of the postcard with one of the tags, and to keep the other half, which contained the other tag.

"One of the tags was designed to stay with the pet guardian or donor, and the other was to come back to the shelter here, and we would put the tags on the animals in our shelter," Wilson said.

The letter was from John Stevenson, president of NSAL America. It told the story of Chansey, a cat, and her kittens, which were abandoned in a dirty apartment, suffering from starvation and dehydration. According to the letter, NSAL rescued them, spayed and neutered them and placed them for adoption.

"Your support today can help give abandoned cats and dogs that second chance," it said.

A gift of $25, for example, can provide a rescued cat or kitten with a full veterinary exam while a donation of $34 or more pays for pre-adoption vaccines. The letter also said $46 covers the average food and boarding costs for a rescued animal and $120 supports spaying or neutering.

Stevenson informed readers at the end of the letter that Chansey and the kittens had been adopted.

NSAL America credits the interactivity for the success of the donor campaign.

"We get quite a high response rate for any of these kinds of interactive pieces that we've done in the past," Wilson said. The reason for the high response "goes back to 'Direct Mail 101.' You get the donor involved, and since they are sending something back to you anyway, they feel as though they might as well write a check and send it back as well."

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