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The Loyalty Letter

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February 2011
Published by Lisa Sargent

Welcome, Nonprofit Professionals:

One of the organizations that does a solid job of saying thank you and welcome... and then sending regular and relevant communications to donors after that... is CARE, the US-based charity most everyone's heard of.

I gave to CARE for the first time last October.

From my perspective, CARE's donor communications plan is well worth studying.

So I'm sharing it with you in this month's article, below.

Thanks, as ever, for reading The Loyalty Letter. I'm glad you're here.

Until next month,

Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

P.S. If you aren't yet a subscriber, you can sign up free using the box at the top right of this page. And if you like this issue, please share. Thanks!

How CARE Engages New Donors

If you want a step-by-step plan for how to do post-acquisition donor communications, CARE is worth studying. Below, we shadow a first time donor (me), to see how CARE communicates over a three month period, post-gift...

In late October I sent a donation to CARE in response to its "I Am Powerful" campaign to end female genital cutting. (Strong language, plain English, and yes, it's what CARE used in the appeal because that's what happens.)

Then I tracked every communication that followed.

Here's what happened next:

1. Three weeks, post-gift: Thank you packet.
The packet arrives bearing teaser copy on the carrier, Thank You for Caring! GIFT RECEIPT ENCLOSED with a photo of a young, shyly smiling girl. (Black and white pic.)

Why this works: There's the photo, of course. And the thank you. But I'd wager to guess that most donors will open for the gift receipt, because it's a relevant message.

What I'd improve: Inside is a short note attached to two slips (gift receipt and donation slip). The short thank you note, sadly, wasn't personalized. But everything else was, including the date of my gift. And it made specific reference to the appeal that prompted my gift (yay!), so not bad all in all.

Also included is a BRE and special Welcome Edition of their World Report donor newsletter. (Note: I will cover welcome newsletters in an upcoming e-newsletter. Stay tuned.)

2. Four weeks, post-gift: Communications preference card. This is a thoughtfully designed self-mailer with Thank you for helping save lives! on the outside and another photo of a smiling girl. (Bonus points for the added thank you.)

Why this works: call me a traitor, but I don't always do what charities ask me to do... sometimes, simply to see what comes next. So I didn't complete the survey. All the same, I still remember that they were courteous enough to ask.

What I'd improve: older donors, especially, are slightly neurotic about mail fraud and privacy. (Read as: many of us over 45 shred EVERYTHING.) So a postcard reply device might suppress response, with responses and mailing address there for the world to see. But it's likely that a lower response rate on this is perfectly OK with CARE.

3. Seven weeks, post-gift: Matching appeal. Kraft carrier broadcasts the offer: UNLOCK FOUR TIMES THE HELP NOW! and For children who need you...

Why this works: in two words, the offer. (Plus the appeal is a well-written marriage of stories and specifics and makes good use of emotional triggers.)

What I'd improve: a decent appeal, I thought.

4. Eight weeks, post-gift: A phone call. Yup, that's right. A phone call, to thank me for donating and... wait for it... ask me to become a 'Partner for Change' (CARE's monthly giving program). 

Why this works: the caller was fabulous, for one thing. Very friendly, and didn't rigidly adhere to a set script. I asked if she would please send me info by mail.

What I'd improve: see #5.

5. Nine weeks, post-gift: Follow-up mailing. Carrier once again bears relevant, transactional-type teaser copy: Thank you for speaking with us! with a telephone icon nearby. And since I'd requested follow-up, I opened it.

Why this works: it's timely and it makes sense. The enclosed 1-page letter, personalized, referred back to the original caller, Jane, by name.

What I'd improve: This package was a letdown. The copy for the letter, while well-written, didn't scratch the surface of the reasons I might send CARE monthly support. The only other enclosure was a single-sided sheet thick with legalese, listing the states that require CARE to disclose that a copy of the financial report is available on request. I realize, of course, that it's the law. But, having asked for additional info when I spoke with Jane, I had expected to receive a brochure or scorecard or something additional, describing the program.

6. Ten weeks, post-gift: Sustainer appeal. CARE mostly redeems themselves with this mailing, which has the information I expected in the previous mailing.

Why this works: The letter makes it clear how my monthly support will help and what it will accomplish: Send a girl to school for a year... provide safe drinking water for an entire family... and so on. And, at last, the long-awaited brochure, both well-written and designed to walk me through the entire process.

What I'd improve: The appeal letter isn't personalized. For a sustainer program, I think I'd spring for the added expense. BUT: it's entirely possible that CARE has tested this already, and found that it didn't make enough of a difference.

7. Eleven weeks, post-gift: CARE's regular donor newsletter packet.

Why this works: Carrier teaser identifies contents: January 2011 WORLD REPORT A Newsletter for the Friends of CARE. And engages: Thank Yous from Around the World Plus Haiti One Year Later.

What I'd improve: no comments. A solid donor newsletter pack, includes a reply slip and BRE. CARE is not shy about asking for donations, and asking repeatedly -- so far, in every mailing except the donor communications questionnaire.

8. Twelve weeks, post-gift: Giving record mailing. Carrier IDs contents: IMPORTANT 2010 GIVING RECORD ENCLOSED Please Open Immediately.  Inside, a thank you letter and the giving record (with reply coupon attached). BRE.

Why this works: the carrier teaser, for starters. It arrived at the end of January (the same as most tax documents here in the US, so terrific timing). The letter begins by thanking me, and does so again. And it tells me how to use the giving record (tax prep), which summarizes my donations for 2010.

What I'd improve: nothing. I really liked this mailing. Timely, useful, relevant. And that carrrier teaser copy can't be beat. High on my swipe-worthy meter!

Final Note: About CARE
For those of you who aren't familiar with CARE (which, probably, is no one), Charity Navigator lists the organization as a $692-million, Georgia-based "leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty." CARE spends (invests!) nearly $24 million annually on fundraising, so I think we'd be safe to say they do some testing of their direct mail.

P.S. Subscribing to The Loyalty Letter is easy: scroll up for handy sign-up form at the top of this page.   

And lastly, if ever you have a question on donor communications, send it along to The Loyalty Letter. All you have to do is:

Email me.

Or call: +001 (860) 881-7009.

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I write a lot of direct mail donor communications. And I really love Deliver, the magazine of the US Postal Service, because it often has meaty articles on nonprofits. February's "Slick Response' was short but sweet, with a lesson on speed-to-campaign-launch after a crisis.

Access it here, article page 7.
(Tip from the trenches: Speed matters. Deliver's timely rollout lesson isn't just for crises. Your annual appeal, your Christmas appeal, your donor newsletter... a 3-4-or-more week launch delay hamstrings response rates and revenues. I've seen it happen, more than once. Betting on creative mojo to compensate for month-long production delays won't always work. 'Nuff said.)


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