Simple Approach Works Best for Rescue Mission

The Rockford Rescue Mission will stick to its basic direct mail approach for the Thanksgiving mailing season after a successful Easter campaign.

“Rescue missions have three major campaign periods — Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Randy Schackmann, account director at Atlanta-based direct marketing agency Grizzard. “Those are the big three, with Thanksgiving being No. 1.”

Grizzard works with Rockford and nearly 90 other local rescue missions nationwide.

Schackmann said these organizations are generally small, religious nonprofits without much money for fancy fundraising appeals or premiums.

However, a straightforward direct mail appeal was enough to generate more than a 10 percent response rate for Rockford Rescue Mission, a church-affiliated rescue mission serving men, women and children in Rockford, IL. All it took was a letter, an insert and a tent card in a number 10 envelope.

The Easter New Life campaign 2002 was mailed to 15,532 house file donors of the Rockford mission with an in-home date of March 1, 2002.

Though the piece was standard in format, it differed from previous mailings by adding national statistics about the homeless on the back of the letter along with photographs of homeless individuals, Schackmann said.

The results, which were complete by the end of March, were slightly better than the year before at just over 10 percent versus 9.57 percent in 2001.

Despite the mailing's simplicity, it united all the key elements of traditional fundraising appeals.

“It's application of the basics by taking direct mail to its roots,” Schackmann said, “building great creative and art together with a solid appeal and an excellent offer providing information and encouragement to the donor to see how their gift is going to make a difference.”

Not only did the letter provide data on U.S. homelessness, it included information on what services specific donation amounts would help Rockford to provide. According to the letter, a gift of $30.43 would feed 17 hungry people. The average gift from this campaign was $37.77.

Perhaps the most important element of this mail campaign was the involvement device, Schackmann said. The enclosed tent card contained a quote from the Bible and the message, “From a friend who hopes this Easter meal will be a new beginning for you.” Donors signed and returned the card to be placed on the tables at the mission during their Easter meal. The reply envelope was not postage paid.

For the upcoming Thanksgiving campaign, Rockford will use a placemat as the involvement device.

“In October, Rockford will focus on the idea that everyone should have a place for shelter and food during the holidays,” Schackmann said.

The piece, which will arrive in homes Oct. 1, will provide statistics about how many homeless people the mission will care for over the holiday. About 100,000 pieces will be mailed, with an expected response of better than 10 percent for house file names and about 1.5 percent for prospects.

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