Sierra Club Tests Lewis and Clark's Appeal

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The Sierra Club is basing a new direct mail test package on the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition.


The club last month sent out 50,000 pieces nationwide, using a database of rented lists from 50 to 75 organizations that "we do well with," said Johanna O'Kelley, director of membership acquisition at the Sierra Club, San Francisco. The goal is both new members and support for a cause: the preservation of the remaining undeveloped land in the area explored by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their Corps of Discovery. President Thomas Jefferson sent the expedition west in 1804 with orders to "find the shortest and most convenient route of communications between the U.S. and the Pacific Ocean."


The Sierra Club package contains a four-page letter claiming that "indiscriminate logging of this land has demolished most of the uncut forest, dams have destroyed the serenity of many of the rivers while also devastating the salmon population and many other water species. Oil and gas drilling operations dot the area."


The letter is accompanied by an 8-inch-by-14-inch reply form. The top half is a membership form; the bottom half is a petition addressed to the recipient's congressional representative, seeking support for the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Preservation Act, which will preserve 20 million acres of threatened land and wildlife habitat.


A horizontal fold-out brochure, which opens to a 12-inch-by-8-inch sheet, shows both how the Lewis and Clark route looked in 1804, and today, highlighting the remaining untouched areas in eight states.


"It's fairly dramatic," O'Kelley said, "because there's not very much left."


The package also includes a small insert, that lists membership benefits on one side and details about the membership premium, an expedition backpack, on the other, and a business reply envelope. All the materials were sent out in a No. 11 gray envelope.


The Sierra Club is testing the Lewis and Clark package against what O'Kelley calls "our best run ever": the Roadless package, which focuses on the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act, which would end government-subsidized logging in national forests, and the Clinton-Gore Wild Forest Protection Plan to protect all roadless areas of more than 1,000 acres from logging, mining, off-road vehicles and other destructive activities.


"The Roadless package ran 15 percent better than any package we've ever done, and it's a low-cost package," said O'Kelley, who hopes the Lewis and Clark package will do even better and become the new control. "That's the name of the game -- survival of the fittest."


O'Kelley also tests new packages because some campaigns become moot once the Sierra Club gets what it wants.


"We're hoping the Roadless package becomes obsolete before the end of the year because we want President Clinton to save all the roadless areas, which he proposed to do last October when he came out with the plan," she said.


To get a head start, the Sierra Club is coming out with the Lewis and Clark package almost four years early.


"It takes a long time in the environmental world to accomplish what we need to accomplish," O'Kelley said. "From the direct mail angle, it takes 10 months to get it into our cycle. We started working on this package the first of July to mail it Sept. 15. We won't get the results for another two months. And by that time we've already planned our next campaign for December and January.


"The earliest we could roll out Lewis and Clark if it works is on the first of March, which is our next campaign."
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