Viguerie: Nonprofits Fail to Reach DM's Potential

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NEW YORK -- Less than 50 percent of the power of direct marketing is utilized by nonprofit organizations due to a lack of professionalism in the industry, according to conservative direct mail guru Richard Viguerie.

"We don't study and learn our professions as others do," said Viguerie, chairman of American Target Advertising, during an address yesterday at the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation's 2004 New York Nonprofit Conference at the Waldorf-Astoria. "You wouldn't go to a doctor who had only read four or five medical books, would you?"

Viguerie also said he learned little about direct marketing from its nonprofit practitioners, instead learning from their for-profit counterparts.

The luncheon speaker added that great strides have been made since he entered nonprofit direct mail in the 1960s.

According to Viguerie, there would be no conservative movement without the direct marketing that took place starting in the 1960s and which continues to this day. In the 1960s, he claimed, conservative groups could not get coverage from the mainstream media such as newspapers and television news outlets because liberals controlled them.

As a result, the conservative movement turned to what Viguerie called the alternative media, or below-the-radar media, which includes direct mail. In later years it encompassed talk radio, cable television and the Internet.

"There would be no conservative movement without direct mail," he said.

Conservatives made huge strides from the 1960s to the 1980s through the use of direct mail, culminating in Ronald Reagan's election as president in 1980, Viguerie said.

However, he said, within three to four years of that triumph for conservatives, their liberal counterparts caught up and surpassed them in terms of effective use of direct mail.

"Until recently, Republicans raised three, four or five times more money through direct mail, but Democrats are doing a better job now of using new media and direct mail for fundraising," Viguerie said.

He cited the fundraising success of Howard Dean, and also said John Kerry has raised 75 percent of the money for his 2004 campaign via the Internet.

Viguerie said Democratic fundraising success has resulted from using anti-Bush direct mail messages. He wondered whether a Kerry victory in the presidential election would diminish their ability to fundraise via direct mail.

For the 2004 election cycle, Viguerie estimated that about 50 percent of Americans would get their information about the candidates through media other than newspapers and network television. He cited direct mail, talk radio, cable television and the Internet. He also noted documentaries such as Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" as an up-and-coming form of media for political messaging that liberals may have an edge with.

"Conservatives do a lot of things well, but making movies is not one of them," he joked.

Viguerie estimated that in 1960 about 50,000 individuals donated to candidates or political organizations as opposed to 8 million in 2004.

"American politics were changed forever by our industry," he said.


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