Lutheran Charity's New Appeal Raises Average Gift

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A new direct mail fundraising campaign featuring a "freemium" and two-part approach garnered an almost $25 increase in the average gift for Lutheran Social Services' annual Christmas/holiday adoption appeal.


Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan is a nonprofit group that acts as the social ministry arm for more than 800 Lutheran churches in the two states. The charity provides adoption services as well as programs on mental health, abuse, older adults and troubled teens.


"LSS does a Christmas mailing on adoption each year, which is their biggest mailing of the year," said Jamie Gradisnik, account executive at Johnson Direct, Brookfield, WI, who has worked with the organization for about three years.


After several years of sending a control package consisting of a No. 10 window envelope and appeal letter, LSS agreed to test a new appeal.


Based on the success of a campaign by another Johnson Direct client, Gradisnik proposed that LSS try a two-part mailing with a freemium of address labels included in the first drop. It was the first time the charity used a freemium or a dual mailing.


The first drop went to the organization's 33,000-name donor base Nov. 21. The mail piece was a 6-by-9-inch window envelope containing the labels and a letter. The letter described a group of Russian orphans who attended a camp in Wisconsin through LSS. It focused on one boy who touched a couple's hearts.


The second piece was a No. 10 window envelope that dropped Dec. 12. It went to the same people and contained a letter updating recipients on the previous story and telling of the couple's adoption of the boy.


Overall response to both drops was 1,063 donations with an average gift of $106.55. The effort has brought in more than $113,200, with responses still coming, Gradisnik said.


The previous year LSS mailed a single drop of 24,427, which produced 1,030 responses, an average gift of $82 and $84,455 in donations.


Though the cost nearly doubled for the two-part effort with the freemium, Gradisnik said the organization was pleased with the results.


"We have found in the past the people will be more apt to donate if there is a freemium included, but sometimes you only get $5 or $10," she said. The average gift for Lutheran Social Services is very high.


However, results were not broken out to measure response separately for each drop so the group cannot be sure whether it was the free labels or the two-part mailing that boosted the average gift. Therefore, LSS looks to test just the freemium in the spring or next Christmas.


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