Wildlife Society Eyes Tigers for Mailer

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The Wildlife Conservation Society hopes the image of a tiger on the envelope of its annual spring acquisition mailing helps the organization reach its goals for response rate and dollars raised.


Tigers, it seems, are everywhere in the campaign.


"The image of the tiger is used to promote the Tiger Mountain exhibit at the Bronx Zoo that opened [in May 2003]," said Shari Romar, director of membership for the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, which has a membership of 95,000. "It's also mentioned in the pitch letter, and we also have the tiger appearing on a member sticker that's included in the piece. The tiger is meant to have an emotional appeal and to convey the fact that you can see the tigers up close."


The piece was mailed to 703,615 recipients in the New York metropolitan area in March. The target group included families with children younger than 12.


Though mainly an acquisition effort, several house files were used, including people whose memberships lapsed along with some who attended wildlife society events. The 17 house lists accounted for 25 percent of the mailing. The 75 outside lists included members of the American Museum of Natural History, the Long Island Children's Museum, the New York Botanical Garden and the National Audubon Society, plus names from the Disney catalog and Family Fun, Parenting, Parents and Child magazines.


"A number of the lists we chose have the family or child component, so for them children in the household is assumed," Romar said. "But there are some lists that offered a child select in the household."


The campaign cost 36 cents per piece, including postage at the nonprofit rate. The organization seeks a response rate of 0.57 percent, and Romar expects the effort to bring $400,000.


"We project that based on past performance," she said. "We expect the responses to come in through the end of summer."


The two-sided pitch letter includes more than just a reference to Tiger Mountain, as it asks recipients to join the Bronx Zoo and become Wildlife Conservation Society members. Along with discounts and free admission, the letter says membership also includes a free T-shirt and free admission to other WCS venues such as the New York Aquarium and the Central Park, Queens and Prospect Park zoos.


"The zoos are our selling point," she said.


The five locations draw more than 4 million visitors annually; half of that number is to the Bronx Zoo alone.


Testimonials represent a new feature of this year's pitch letter, with two on the front and three on the back. A testimonial also appears for the first time on the two-sided insert, which features images of animals, repeats the benefits of membership and outlines the membership levels as well as noting that part of the donation is tax deductible.


"It's not the prime motivator, but it's an extra benefit that a certain amount is tax deductible," Romar said. "Having all of the animals on both sides of the insert is its real selling point."


The back of the reply slip includes a pass for one free admission to the Bronx Zoo's Congo Gorilla Forest or Children's Zoo or on Bengali Express or Zoo Shuttle. It also carries the headline: "You're Closer to the Bronx Zoo Than You Think!" Under that is the driving time and distance to the zoo from 20 locations throughout New York's northern suburbs and Long Island as well as Connecticut and New Jersey.


"People have this perception that the Bronx is very far away, and they don't realize it's only 12 minutes from some areas of Westchester County," she said.


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