Research Foundation Will Test Direct Mail Premiums

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The Deafness Research Foundation, Washington, is attempting to revitalize its fundraising efforts with a new direct mail agency and a new marketing campaign theme.


"They've asked us to really turn around their program," said Patrick Healy, marketing director at Creative Direct Response, Crofton, MD.


Healy said his firm's plans call for an expanded donor acquisition program, scheduled to begin in July, which will include a test of the use of premiums.


"Interestingly enough, they've been doing straight letter [mailings] both for donors and for acquisitions," he said about the foundation, which raises money for research grants to study the causes of hearing loss and to discover treatments. "There's been a lot of trashing of premiums in the last six months or so in the industry, but we think that's the way to go in our initial acquisition packages; and we're going to test that against straight letter."


Creative Direct plans to mail between 300,000 and 600,000 acquisition pieces by the end of the year, including a 50,000-piece drop in July that will be the initial test of the use of premiums. The initial acquisition mailing will include a double premium -- name labels and gift cards -- and will be tested against a 50,000-piece drop of straight letters with sticky notes attached. Additional acquisition mailings are planned for September and November.


Meanwhile, in May the agency plans to begin a four-part series of donor mailings using sticky-note letters to the DRF's house file of more than 13,000 past donors. Additional donor mailings are planned for July, September and November.


"Minimally, we'll double their file," Healy said. "If we're extremely successful, we might get up to 60,000 names or so."


Creative Direct is taking over the DRF account just as the organization has unveiled its new, five-year marketing and educational initiative. The National Campaign for Hearing Health consists of four basic messages and will be targeted both to the public at large and to physicians, according to Susan Greco, director of development, individual giving and advocacy at the DRF. The four messages include the importance of early hearing-impairment testing for infants, the need for devices that assist the hearing impaired, finding cures for hearing loss and promoting the use of protective hearing devices around hazardous noises.


"The whole campaign really has several prongs to it," said Greco. "We are trying to educate not only the general public, but we are also trying to educate the medical forum."


She said the DRF plans to mail to a specific list of pediatricians during the next few months, although the exact details of that effort have not been finalized.


At least part of the National Campaign for Hearing Health will include testimonials, including one from a family that has three hearing-impaired children whose hearing loss was detected at different stages in their lives.


The various messages of the campaign will be incorporated into the letters in the direct mail efforts, Healy said.


"We'll use that platform initially, then we'll test if we have to later on, using different descriptions," he said.


Healy said his agency also has plans to change the DRF's direct mail strategy, including incorporating more pictures and artwork into the direct mail pieces and asking for smaller contributions.


"Sometimes in their letters, the lowest gift they were asking for was $100," he said. "We're going to test different dollar amounts, and go to the lower, more traditional dollar amounts you would see in direct mail."


The agency is exploring several list opportunities for the acquisition mailings, including those from blindness fundraising projects, other health-related lists and lists acquired from schools for the hearing-impaired.


Also, the DRF last month began accepting donations at its Web site (www.drf.org).


"We're capturing all of their vital statistics, as well as asking them how they heard about the campaign; so we are determining their point of origin," said Greco, adding that the DRF was planning a follow-up mailing to the list of visitors to the site who supplied their names and addresses.


"We've planted the posts in the ground [for the new campaign]," she said. "Now we're raising the flag."

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