DM News Essential Guide to Lists and Databases: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Speaks a New Language

For “Percent Distribution of U.S. Population” chart click below:


The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation decided two years ago to take its message to the Spanish-speaking market. This was a bold move for an organization whose mail piece revolves around the story of “65 Roses.” “65 Roses” is what little children suffering from cystic fibrosis call their disease. They call it that because the words are easier to pronounce. Sixty-five roses, cystic fibrosis … see the connection? Sesenta-cinco rosas, cystic fibrosis … no comprendo.

Lesson 1: Don’t plan on using a literal translation of your English-language piece when marketing to Hispanics. There’s more to it than simply converting words. There are cultural differences. Don’t be surprised if you have to devise an entirely new angle for your offer.

Take our effort. After we resolved creative issues, lists needed to be selected. The challenge was finding the best lists for the lowest overall cost per thousand. In the foundation’s English campaigns, we rely heavily on exchanges to keep costs down. Though the foundation had no Spanish names to offer to list owners, we negotiated some exchanges by offering English names in return.

We knew that Spanish-speaking donor lists were likely to bring the best response. We included every Spanish-speaking donor list on the market in our mail plan – all two of them. More lists were needed, so we branched out. The final mail plan included subscribers, book buyers, lists with Hispanic overlays and large modeling databases. There are more than 1,500 Hispanic lists on the market. One-fourth of them let you target true Spanish-speaking individuals. The majority of the lists use surnames or other types of enhancements to identify Hispanics.

Lesson 2: In list language, Hispanic and Spanish speaking are worlds apart. If your mail piece is written in Spanish, make sure you reach people who read Spanish. Be especially careful with surname overlay files. Having a Spanish-sounding name is one thing; speaking the language is another.

The initial test mailing dropped in July 2003. Lists ran the gamut from “must tests” to “we need names, so let’s try it and see what happens.” Results were astounding. Not only was gross response substantially higher than the foundation’s English mailings, but donation amounts were higher than expected.

The test succeeded. Initially, we were concerned that because there are so few Spanish donor lists on the market, there might not be enough names for the foundation to roll out to on a regular basis. We found, however, that unlike English mailings, non-donor lists worked well and sometimes better than donor lists.

Lesson 3: Test first and then cast judgment. The foundation’s executives could have easily assessed the list market and decided not to mail because there were so few donor lists. Had they done so, they would have lost out on a substantial revenue center. Two years later, the foundation now mails its Spanish piece bimonthly. It has more than enough names to mail. List types that generally don’t work for the foundation’s English offer are working in Spanish. More importantly, analysis shows that Spanish donors are younger than their English counterparts. For a fundraiser, this is key. The younger the donor, the more time they have ahead to give.

Was the reward worth the risk? You decide. The foundation established a presence in this blossoming market.

Related Posts