Package of the Month:


The National Audubon Society

Acquisition is a necessary evil.

Audobon-3Most direct mail fundraisers have watched an acquisition mail date come with fingers crossed that it’ll be the magic bullet that suddenly catapults a non-profit’s acquisition efforts into the black.

In reality, though, acquisition is usually a tough slog and it just about always costs money.  They say you have to spend money to make money, right?  It seems the saying holds true, even in the world of fundraising.

Our current package of the month is an acquisition package for an organization whose name is well known to most Americans.  The National Audubon Society has been around for over a century and while they’re most widely known for their efforts to save birds, they also work to conserve other species and habitats for wildlife.  They’re conservationists in the best sense of the word, working on many fronts to safeguard precious natural resources.

In Audubon’s case, having name recognition can be a blessing and a curse for acquisition mail.  It works in their favor that people “know” them.  But, it can hurt them that people think they know what the organization is about, without spending the time to learn more.

The package we looked at is one that we’ve seen in the mail quite a bit for Audubon, so we know it’s a good performer.  It’s a very sophisticated looking mailing, with lots going for it.  Here’s what we especially enjoyed about it:

  • It’s well-designed and feels very cohesive. The imagery supports Audubon’s strong brand with clean, vibrant, photographic bird images.
  • There’s great use of extra personalization on the label sheet.  So many organizations miss out on the chance to use these already laser personalized vehicles to communicate directly and personally with a potential donor.  In this case, it’s a personalziaed message between the reply device and the labels, reminding the recipient that the labels are a gift.  We particualry like the “share the beauty of Audubon with others” line.
  • A back end premium can really drive response, but needs to be carefully planned and well executed.  Audubon has chosen a wind chime premium that ties in with their mission, but still has appeal for a vast majority of potential donors.  The insert showcasing the premium is nicely designed, with clear copy and catalogue style photos.  It also reconnects the donor to the fact that their gift is helping to further Audubon’s work.  (And, even better, Audubon uses the back of this insert for tips to help birds “where you live,” an action piece that surely helps with joint cost allocation).


Since we know Audubon is a veteran mailer with success in fundraising across many channels, we feel humbled suggesting changes to what is surely a long time acquisition control.  But, as usual, we can’t help ourselves, and if given the chance to help Audubon continue their mission of conservation, we would consider:


  • Testing a teaser that references the labels in the package, as well as the back end premium.  If a potential donor isn’t excited about the particular back end on offer, they might toss the whole mailing without opening it.  The double whammy of a free gift inside and the potential for an even “better” one, may get them to spend a few more precious seconds considering the offer and ask.  We might also try a premium window on the back of the outer envelope to show the labels.
  • While the art in this package is an asset, we’d have to make some choices based on prior testing for other clients.  We’ve seen significant (north of 30%!) lifts when testing “mixed” art against a “branded” art control.  The Audubon package is clearly branded art and while it looks great, it might not appeal to the broadest possible audience.  Mixed art is more retail oriented; more like something a potential donor would buy and less like a “free gift.”
  • It’s a pretty simple and inexpensive matter to cut the label sheet into multiple panels so that it seems as if the donor is getting more.  Even though the number of labels hasn’t changed, having extra pieces in the mailing creates the perception of more gifts.  In this case, a simple redesign would make the reply device one piece, with two separate label sheets (by cutting the original label sheet into thirds after printing and lasering).
  • Clearly labels work.  But, we have results that show they can be beaten.  A five card package, thoughtfully designed, could be a winner for Audubon.  It would mail in an envelope, at the same postal rate as the label package.  Certainly, the cost would be greater, making the cost to acquire each new donor higher.  If the package performs as we’d project, based on history, though, the higher response rate would offset the higher cost.  Ideally, we’d want to test a couple of versions of this package with different art; one branded like the labels and one with mixed, retail-style art.

We’d love the chance to see what we could do with this package, but in the meantime, we salute Audubon for their fine fundraising efforts and commitment to a vital conservation mission.





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