Hebrew Home Turns to Marketing Mavens

Building on a successful Hanukkah mailing last year, the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington is sending 50,000 direct mail pieces for Passover.

The home hopes to sustain the momentum from last year when it acquired more than 1,000 new donors and collected $250,000 through direct mail. Fundraisers for the 558-bed nursing home attribute the growth to the efforts of direct marketing consultants Lautman & Co.

Before outsourcing, the Hebrew Home's three holiday appeals to a house list brought in $114,000 yearly. The Hebrew Home's last appeal, during Hanukkah last year, brought in $45,000 from existing donors and another $45,000 from new donors.

“We decided to hire an outside direct mail consultant to accomplish three goals: increase our donor base, increase our direct mail campaign bottom line and help identify potential new major gift donors,” said Kathy Juda, director of annual campaigns.

In 1988, public relations director Marilyn Feldman began what she calls a “small, do-it-yourself” inhouse direct mail program. She solicited only people who had relatives in the home or people who supported the home through fundraising events.

“We were mailing to our own list,” she said. “But we wanted to begin an acquisition mailing and also segment our list so we could ask people for the proper amount of money. We wanted to be able to tie the ask string to donors' past giving history.”

After operating that way for about 10 years, Feldman worked with a direct marketing company for a little more than a year with limited success. Then, in 1999, she switched to Lautman & Co., a Washington-based direct marketing agency, and the program took off.

Lautman developed two basic packages, one for acquisition and one for previous donors. The agency also recommended lists that performed well for the Hebrew Home such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington and B'nai B'rith, a Jewish philanthropic organization. Both packages include a letter, a return form and an envelope.

The donor package focuses on how the nursing home benefits residents during the holidays and year-round. The acquisition package makes a more general statement on the benefits of the nursing home.

The Hebrew Home sends a little more than 150,000 acquisition packages a year — including 30,000 in the spring for Passover, 53,000 in the fall for the Jewish High Holy Days and 50,000 in winter for Hanukkah.

Last year, Lautman suggested that the Hebrew Home change its Hanukkah mailing by sending only 38,000 pieces. It also sent a Hebrew Home letter, reply form and envelope in 32,000 Advo coupon packages to people living in ZIP codes with the greatest concentration of Hebrew Home donors.

The Advo package brought in an average gift of $82 and 128 new donors. Hebrew Home was dissatisfied with the response rate of less than 1 percent from the Advo inserts and is going back to its traditional mailing strategy.

The acquisition package goes out to 5,000 donors on the house list during the three major Jewish holidays and a fourth time in June. Acquisition packages brought in $40,000 in 2000.

New donors do not come cheaply. Before outsourcing, the Hebrew Home spent $26,000 on its direct mail program; now direct mail costs $118,000. But Feldman said the benefits provided by outside consultants far outweigh the cost.

“Consultants offer savings because they have resources they've been working with,” Feldman said. “They can match you up to the right providers. We've found that we could absorb the consultant fee and still succeed.”

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