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5 Direct Mail Messaging Tips

November 6th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Direct Mail, Fundraising

Direct mail marketing has many areas of focus, so sometimes not enough time is spent on messaging. Too many times marketers are quick to try something while not thinking it all the way through. Just as the designer took time to lay out the art, you need to take time to lay out the message. Thoroughly vetting WHAT you say and HOW you say it, is essential. In order to have your direct mail messaging be effective there are some things you should consider.

Here are five tips for better direct mail messages:

  1. Not Too Wordy: The easiest way to get your mail piece thrown in the trash is to put too many words on it. Think of ways to convey your message using less words. Bullets, color text, bolding and italics can all help to highlight the most important words. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) method is best.
  2. Repeat the Message: The more times a recipient sees the same message the better it is remembered. They are then more likely to respond. Another benefit of repeating the message is that the more often they hear or see it, the more they trust the message.
  3. Focused Theme: In direct mail it is very important to coordinate your message, your artwork, your design and your audience together to form your theme. When any of these is out of alignment it detracts from your message, confuses the recipient and your direct mail ends up in the trash.
  4. Rhyme: People enjoy rhyme. It’s easy to remember and fun to read. When your message rhymes it resonates more with recipients. Have some fun with your messaging. The best part about rhyme is that you can subliminally coax people with your message.
  5. Brand: Your brand is how people identify you. If your message conflicts with your brand people will not believe it. They will not trust your message and may even get angry about it. Take the time to craft your message to your brand.

Think about the last direct mail piece you received and really looked at. What about that messaging was intriguing for you? Usually you can pin point a few key words that stuck out to you. Using that information, how can you tailor your message to do the same thing? What words will grab attention and stand out to them?

All the words you place on the mail piece need to work together toward your goal. Is your goal for them to visit your website? Come to your store? Call you? Or something else? When you have a clearly defined goal it makes it easier to craft your message. Not every mailing will have the same goal, so make sure that when you carry messaging over from other campaigns that you carefully edit it to fit your new goal.

Remember that recycling the message from previous campaigns is good for recognition, so you want to do it. Just make sure that when you do, you are integrating it into the new campaign well. Some wording will need to change and you may need to highlight different key words. Crafting your messaging can be really fun, so take some time and get inspired to be creative.

By Summer Gould
Target Marketing Magazine

Facebook Adds ‘Donate Now’ Button to Make Giving to Charity Easier

October 26th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Social Media

Facebook for Business announced in a post that it has added “Donate Now” as a call-to-action button available for Brand Pages. These buttons can now appear right on a Facebook Brand Page, or directly within an ad on the site.

“Now, it’s easier than ever for nonprofits to connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute through the website of their choice.”




Facebook introduced the call-to-action button for Brand Pages in December of last year, which are designed to drive a company’s many fans to take further action beyond Liking a page. These buttons include “Book Now,” “Shop Now” and “Contact Us” buttons, and appear right alongside the Like Button at the top of a Page.

This button also seems like a more permanent iteration of the one found when Facebook rallied users to donate to the Nepal earthquake in April of this year. Facebook offered a pop-up to a blog post that had a “Donate” button, and offered to match up to $2 million. In total, the company says that Facebook users raised more than $17 million to help rescue and rebuilding efforts.

These buttons generally link to an off-site page, so nothing is actually done within Facebook proper. This extends to donations — the “Donate Now” button available on the ALS Association Facebook Page (of Ice Bucket Challenge fame) simply redirects to the donation page on the company’s official site, with a referrer tag in the URL.

Facebook also places a disclaimer on that button, advising its users that the donations aren’t affiliated with Facebook.

This new addition is a boon for charities who are looking to use engagement to drum up donations and capitalize on viral moments, as the ALS Association did last year.


by Lauren Hockenson
August 24, 2015
TNW News

Making Sense of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

October 15th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Email

Canadian sales professionals are confused and frustrated. Rightfully so. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is guiding marketers, while neglecting to help sellers understand and adapt to the law’s new consequences.

So, beware: The Canadian Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) does limit your ability to “cold email” prospects.

That said, there seems to be two workarounds for B-to-B sellers that don’t bend the rules:

  • Use LinkedIn InMail, where users have already given their consent to receive your message and/or
  • approach prospects with messages that do not encourage participation in a commercial activity.

Preface: I’m not a lawyer and you should consider your lawyer’s advice. Unfortunately, the law truly is confusing from a sales person’s perspective. That said …

What CASL Is (and Is Not)
What is clear is the CASL’s intention: To reduce unwanted, un-solicited email being sent by marketers. The Canadian government wants to lower the quantity of commercial electronic messages that are unwanted — yet being received — by customers or potential customers.

Got it. And CASL puts power into customers’ hands.

CASL is not an attempt to limit the ability of businesses to develop new accounts using email messages. Heh. Not intentionally so.

According to the CASL website:

“To send a commercial electronic message to an electronic address, you need to have the recipient’s consent, to identify yourself, to offer an unsubscribe mechanism and to be truthful.”

This is not terribly new. Yet many of my clients are confused. Rightfully. They’re putting a lot (too much) focus on the consent piece. If you look at recent lawsuits and settlements, notice how obtaining consent is not a focal point.

So, how much does earning consent to email someone “cold” matter?

Do You Have Implied Consent?
No. But LinkedIn has better: Explicit consent. And it’s “shareable” with you.

The main issue here is consent — getting it from prospects. Well, there are two flavors of what the CASL calls valid consent:

Express and implied.

Express means you have written or oral permission. Simple. You don’t have express consent. But you do have access to your prospects’ express consent when using LinkedIn InMail. That’s because your prospects’ consent is passed to you via LinkedIn’s Terms & Conditions.

LinkedIn InMail Is a Safe Option
After CASL took effect, LinkedIn InMail has become more valuable to Canadian sellers who need to make contact with potential new buyers. Yes, it’s expensive, but it may be worth considering.

Messages sent through LinkedIn have been pre-approved by the recipient. Because InMail is optional for LinkedIn users, this means users can opt-out — thus removing their consent. (See section 2.5 Messages & Sharing of LinkedIn’s user agreement)

InMail users are (so far as I can see) CASL compliant. So long as you obey the wishes of the recipient by classifying the type of message he or she is interested in receiving (“business deals,” “reference requests,” expertise requests,” etc.) and as long as the user has elected to receive InMail.

Can You Earn Implied Consent Without Buying InMail?
Possibly. A seller’s first-touch (cold) email falls under implied consent when both:

  • The email address was obtained in a way that discloses the address without restriction (it was “conspicuously published or sent to you”), and
  • your message relates to the recipient’s functions or activities in a business or official capacity.

Most sellers of email/contact information do impose restrictions. These restrictions often include illegal use of the email addresses you purchase. Thus, purchasing your contact data may not afford you “instant compliance” from CASL.

Also, if you use Rapportive and, beware. Using these services is not in compliance with the new law because you haven’t obtained the email in a conspicuous way. You probably won’t comply when sending email to them.

The CASL does not address this. It should!

Are You at Risk of Non-Compliance?
Is it illegal in Canada to send a prospect (who you don’t know) an email message and, perhaps, a few follow-ups — asking for permission to have a commercial discussion? My interpretation is “no” unless you subscribe them to a mailing list.

However, this area is gray. Consult your lawyer. But also consider bringing this issue to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Your email messages are commercial electronic messages (CEMs) if they encourage participation in a commercial activity. This is defined in the new law. However, messages focused on encouraging commercial activity are typically not effective at earning conversations with most B-to-B prospects.

That said, these kinds of messages are what most sales teams are sending to prospects: Solicitations for business.

Ask for Explicit Consent in Your ‘First Touch’
Preface: Is this technically legal? I don’t know.

That said, consider approaching prospects about a conversation that could lead to their participation in a commercial activity. Don’t send them a CEM. Instead, give them choice.

And don’t abuse them. Mail three times at most. No response? Move on!

Make first contact in a way that helps your prospect give (or deny) the explicit consent required by law — to have a commercial conversation. This will also help you break through to the prospect!

Ask for explicit consent in a way that makes it clear to your prospect:

  1. They are not on an email list. This is a one-to-one email.
  2. You’ve researched them, specifically, and have good reason to ask for consent.
  3. A response is kindly requested (a call to action that gives them choice).

Bottom line: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is not guiding sales forces very well. So, beware: CASL does limit your ability to “cold email” prospects. But don’t panic and don’t jump to conclusions.

Remember: The CASL is designed to reduce unwanted, unsolicited email. The Canadian government wants to lower the quality of commercial electronic messages that are not wanted — yet being received — by customers or potential customers.

Target Marketing magazine

Building a culture of data fluency

October 14th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

For the eleventy-hundredth time I read an article stating that organizations who base their strategic decision making on data out-perform organizations who don’t.

No longer surprising, right?

So what’s the big deal?  Why isn’t every organization taking full advantage of the data we so carefully input, record and store?

That question is also discussed a lot in these days too.  Seems that it’s pretty difficult to get people to change their behavior (eg, adopt a data driven mindset) if no one is comfortable with the concept of understanding data.


The headline above is from an article in Forbes dated October 2014 by H. O. Maycotte.  Mr. Maycotte explains that complex analysis from a business point of view involves a LOT of data.  He says most people just don’t know where to start analyzing and frankly don’t have the right tools to help them accomplish the work.

The central issue is getting people comfortable with understanding the data central to the programs they support.

Recently, TechTarget published a case study highlighting an online-lending organization who is taking their employees through a week-long data boot camp to build data fluency throughout their organization.

Their goal is to be one of the companies who out-perform their peers by taking advantage of data and they’re equipping their employees with some essential skills:

  • asking for the data they need
  • summarizing their competed analysis
  • presenting their findings.

They’ve adopted new management policies to require hard facts to support all decisions.  So if you’re trying to get your department or program to move forward, you’ve got to be able to present your case.

Click here to read the TechTarget case study and find out more.

By Diane Korb
APRA Greater Houston
August 7, 2015


October 12th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Direct Mail, Fundraising

Getting the envelope opened is more than half the
battle in fundraising.

Here’s how to make that battle one you can win.

Size up your envelope:
No. 10 envelopes abound. To change things up, consider larger No. 11 and No. 12 envelopes and smaller Monarchs. Try different colors and textures too.

Write the address:
A handwritten mailing address (or one that looks handwritten) will almost always outperform one in a standard font.

Window or no?
If you usually use window envelopes, try closed face. They cost more but often increase response.

Consider the corner card:
The corner card is the return-address area. People instinctively look there to see who the letter is from. So vary it. Try it without a logo. Try just the director’s name and address, without the organization name. Try no return address. Changing things can generate interest.

Think in reverse:
Try additional messaging on the reverse side of the envelope. Donors often look at both sides before deciding to open the envelope, so an extra prompt usually boosts response.

Make the teaser tease:
Don’t tell the whole story with your teaser. Instead, ask a provocative question, hint at gift inside, refer to an intangible benefit like changing a life or doing good, play off of a current event, and so on. Arouse curiosity. On the other hand, if you have a matching grant, a multiplier, or other specific offer, say so clearly. These are proven motivators. Teasers are tricky, though. An envelope without a teaser will usually beat an envelope with one.
By Jeff Nickel
August 2015
Hilborn Charity Newsletter 

Gen Y increasingly pursuing social entrepreneurship as a career model

October 6th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Social Media

I have spent the past decade mentoring Generation Y, fresh out of post-secondary educations, embarking on career paths. And their abilities and positive attitudes, as well as the passion and determination of many to be lifestyle entrepreneurs and control their own future has surprised me.

Lifestyle entrepreneurship can be defined as a career or job that is chosen to match preferred lifestyle values and activities, rather a career and then arranging your life to synchronize with it.

The old rules of work applied to an economy of factories and offices, a world of “standard,” stable employment with large employers, and careers with more or less predictable trajectories. The new rules belong to another universe — flexible, precarious, and entrepreneurial, less often tied to specific times, places, and employers.

Life entrepreneurs view their decision not as a career but a life strategy to achieve self-fulfillment

The 9-to-5 job may be a relic of the past for Gen Y’ers. A slow climb in a company was once the accepted career path. Today, young people starting their careers are juggling multiple positions. Sixty per cent of Gen Y’ers are switching companies in less than three years, a recent Dan Schawbel’s Millennial Branding report notes, and 87% of companies are reporting a cost of $15,000 to $25,000 to replace each one of them.

Sara B. Markett and her research colleagues at Iowa State University completed a study that explored lifestyle entrepreneurship and its relationship to life quality. They found that changing demographics, longer life expectations, forced or buy-out retirements, greater possibility of quick exits and re-entry into the labour force and the expectations of multiple careers have contributed to the rise of small scale entrepreneurism.

Life entrepreneurs view their decision not as a career but a life strategy to achieve self-fulfillment. They are fueled by a desire to earn a respectable living, find satisfaction in career attainment and achievements, spend quality time with family and friends and make a positive social contribution.

One of the new rules of work is that it can happen wherever you are, anywhere in the world. “Rush hour” is disappearing in New York’s subway system, which reports that weekday growth was strongest outside of the traditional morning and evening rush hours. In many cities in North America, co-working spaces are appearing everywhere, and working from home and remotely is growing exponentially. Upwork, formerly known as Elance-0-Desk estimates 53 million, or 34 per cent, of U.S. workers are freelancers.


Dean van Leeuwen, a strategist, international speaker and co-founding partner of Tomorrow Today Global says: flexible e-workers or “elancers” are a growing trend, supported by mobile technology and the cloud. Projects and teams will be managed much the same way they are on a film set. Leaders will need to become directors rather than managers, guiding resources, coaching players and managing patterns, systems and design. Players with the skills needed will collaborate and compete for projects, work for the duration of the project and then disband. Online platforms such as Kaggle, a home for data scientists, are creating new workplace models — or virtual settings — to find solutions for the biggest and most prestigious companies. Society will see the rise of the professional guild as more and more people work in flexible contract based structures.

I recently interviewed Natalie Sisson, best-selling author of The Suitcase Entrepreneur, and a former client of mine, about the lifestyle entrepreneur trend. Sisson has been at the forefront of the trend for the past 10 years. She argues the core of lifestyle entrepreneurship is around the value of personal freedom. She also says a key reason lifestyle entrepreneurs exist is the explosion of technology that allows for businesses to be automated, online and not geographically specific. In that trend, she argues, Gen Y is tuned in and comfortable, and use it with ease to streamline their work.

Sisson also makes an interesting point about career risks. The traditional way of looking at risk — a job without guaranteed lifetime security — has disappeared in the workplace, even in the public sector. Becoming a lifestyle entrepreneur in a traditional bricks-and-mortar business involves considerable risk from the perspective of financing, capital investment and operational costs. However, lifestyle entrepreneurs are drawn to the kind of businesses that are predominantly online, where costs are substantially lower, so the risk is much lower.

Society is witnessing a slow revolution in the nature of work and the explosion of entrepreneurship. An integral part of that trend will be the number of Gen Y’ers who choose lifestyle entrepreneurships as their preferred career path.

By Ray Williams
June 3, 2015
Financial Post

Ray Williams is president of Ray Williams Associates, a firm located in Vancouver, providing executive coaching and professional speaking services. He is author of a new book, Eye of the Storm: How Mindful Leaders Can Transform Chaotic Workplaces. He can be reached at

When Direct Mail Whups the Pants off Email

September 14th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Direct Mail, Fundraising
In 1984, Peggy and I launched a niche business — the newsletter and archive service on direct mail — Who’s Mailing What!

I still adore direct mail, while email bores the hell out of me.

[Check out the media player where the first image compares a Bill Jayme/Heikki Ratalahti envelope vs. my dreary inbox.]

What triggered this column was a simply spectacular direct mail package from the Danbury Mint. The offer:

A two-sided pendant necklace with diamonds on the front.

On the back were Peggy and my names personally engraved in gold with the message:





As you can see, in images two through four, personalization was everywhere:

  • Our names (Margaret and Denny) appeared 10 times each in the various elements.
  • The personalized pendant photograph with our engraved names appeared five times:
    • Outside carrier front
    • Outside carrier back (with name and address)
    • Carrier inside
    • Lift piece
    • Order form

Simply dazzling!

One other mailing that matches this for inventiveness (and cost!)—the American Express Platinum Card launch, 28 years ago.


Takeaways to Consider

  • Direct mail is tactile — not virtual.
  • You cannot click it out of your life. It must be handled.
  • You can use dazzling graphics and personalization.
  • If you are launching a new product or service, think long and hard about using off-the-page advertising or the Internet. These are public forums. Your product can be seen by Chinese thieves who replicate your offer and put you out of business in hours.

Target Marketing magazine


Gender giving differences

September 8th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

Stanford study: How to encourage men to give to the poor

Stanford Report, February 9, 2015

A Stanford study found that when men were told that poverty hurts everyone in society, their concern and willingness to contribute money increased, effectively closing a gender gap in charitable giving.

By Clifton B. Parker

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

A new study explores how to overcome the gender gap in charitable giving of time and money.

A new Stanford study offers ideas on how to encourage men to donate money and time to charitable causes.

The research, led by Robb Willer, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford, shows that men will contribute to a fundraising campaign if they are convinced that their self-interest is aligned with the particular cause.

While empathy-based appeals tend to be effective with women, men typically have been shown to be less willing to give money or volunteer time to a poverty relief organization than women – a gap perhaps best explained by men’s lower reported feelings of empathy toward others, according to Willer and his co-authors.

However, the right type of messaging can make a significant difference in how men view acts of giving, the researchers wrote.

Willer’s co-authors were Lindsay Owens, a research associate at the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Christopher Wimer, co-director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.

Overcoming the empathy gap

In an online survey of 1,715 participants, the researchers aimed to learn more about what prompts men and women to donate time or money to charity.

They tested how effective a variety of different ways of framing poverty relief were for promoting giving. “Empathy” was measured on a 7-point scale by answers to questions such as “I am often quite touched by things that I see happen,” and respondents were asked several questions regarding their views of poverty in general.

Respondents were then presented with a brief appeal for charity by a hypothetical poverty relief organization, the Coalition to Reduce Poverty. Each person was randomly assigned to read one of five scenarios or pitches for donations emphasizing the following themes:

  • Efficacy (“More than 98 percent of donations go on to directly benefit the poor.”)
  • Conformity (“The poor are now being helped by record numbers of charitable givers across the country.”)
  • Injustice (People “born into poverty never had the other opportunities that other Americans had.”)
  • Aligned self-interest (“Poverty weighs down our interconnected economy, exacerbating many social problems like crime.”)
  • The final one-fifth of participants were not presented with any pitch, but simply asked to donate.

Research findings

Overall, men were less willing to give or donate time, according to the research. The researchers found that they did so in part because they had lower levels of empathy. But one message was effective at closing that gender gap in giving – the “aligned self-interest” appeal, which focused on overall societal concerns like crime.

“The baseline effect is for men to give less due to lower empathy,” Willer explained. “But the ‘aligned self-interest’ pitch changed men’s giving, making them give more than they otherwise would.”

Willer said, “Men reported significantly greater willingness to give, contributing at levels comparable to women. No other message frames were effective in increasing men’s reported willingness to give or volunteer.” This eliminated the gender gap between men and women on charitable giving, he said.

The study noted that this “aligned self-interest” framing worked by increasing men’s concern for poverty, not by changing their understanding of the causes of poverty.

In fact, the appeals highlighting social conformity, the efficacy of giving or the injustice of poverty did not reduce the gender gap or heighten men’s likelihood of giving, the research showed.

Exposure to the same “self-interest” appeal, however, led women to report somewhat lower willingness to volunteer time for poverty relief, Willer and his colleagues said.

“It had the opposite effect for women, who might have felt less motivated to express concern about poverty when doing so seemed inconsistent with feeling empathy for the poor,” he said.

Also, the researchers found that African Americans consistently reported greater willingness than other demographic groups to both give money and volunteer time.

“We explored the relationship in follow-up analyses and found that this association was not mediated by either political ideology or past levels of charitable giving,” wrote Willer.

Willer said the research is important in the big picture because American society tends to rely on nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, for providing relief to the poor.

While past research on Americans’ attitudes toward poverty has focused on support for governmental policies on poverty, Willer said it is important as well to understand support for nongovernmental poverty relief.

Media Contact

Robb Willer, Sociology: (607)

Clifton B. Parker, Stanford News Service: (650)

To QR Code or Not to QR Code?

September 4th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Direct Mail, Fundraising

Does a QR Code add value to direct mail? Well, yes it can. However, before you go put a QR Code on every direct mail piece you send out, let’s discuss what works and what does not. Before you even start down the path of adding QR Codes, what are you trying to do? Why would a QR Code help you do it? If your answer is because you think you should, well, you better rethink that.

When to use a QR Code on direct mail:

  • Drive online engagement
  • Facilitate a phone call
  • Provide a coupon
  • Provide access to additional information
  • Place an order

If you are placing a QR Code on a direct mail piece and it is not doing one of the four things above, is it really benefiting the recipient? What is in it for them to scan it? When you are planning out your QR Codes, make sure to look at it for the recipient’s perspective. QR Codes have good scan rates when used correctly. Another thing to consider when designing your QR Code is to have a little fun with it. You can use color as well as an image or logo to make it stand out.

Best Practices:

  • Instructions: Always include instructions on how to scan and why the recipient should scan it.
  • Buffer Zone: Include 1/16 inch of white space around the QR Code
  • Size: For direct mail, keep your QR Code between a ½ inch and 1 ½ inches for easy scanning and placement
  • Small URLs: Use a URL shortener to keep scanning time short.
  • Mobile Landing Pages: Since the user is going to be using a mobile device to access your content make sure that the landing page is setup for mobile use including the checkout page.
  • Test It: Scan the code in all different types of lighting and using many different mobile devices as well as scanning apps. You want to spot problems before recipients get them.

QR Codes will not be right for everyone. Look at who your recipients are, not just what you want to do. Sometimes they may surprise you, so test one out with a good offer and see what response you get. Many times QR Codes are used in conjunction with PURLs, that way you are providing two ways for them to access the landing page. They can scan the code or type in the URL. This also gives you a chance to see who prefers what method. You can use this information for future mailings.

Your mail service provider can work with you to create a mail piece that incorporates both QR Codes and PURLs. They can also help you with tracking. Compiling reports for your mail delivery dates, QR Code scans and landing page hits are easy and extremely helpful. It’s time to create your direct mail with QR Codes and track your results.

By Summer Gould
Target Marketing magazine

Best tips on growing email lists via offline efforts

August 26th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Email

link to podcast

We’re pleased to have Emily Goodstein, Online Media Strategist, share her best tips on growing your email lists via offline efforts, in this podcast.

Developing your nonprofit’s email list is crucial.  Even if your organization finds many donors are direct mail only, research has found that those constituents who are contacted through multiple channels tend to give more–so, isn’t that a good reason to build it up?

Moreover, your organization undoubtedly holds some type of in-person event, or canvasses the streets, or gets involved at community events.  What better way to develop a relationship with interested, potential donors than to keep in touch via email?

Drawing upon her years working with nonprofit organizations, Emily sheds light on some easy to implement ways to get those people you have met in real life (i.e., “offline”) to be part of your online community– and become stronger donors.  Take a listen and let us know your thoughts!

link to podcast

December 28, 2014
by Emily Goodstein through Third Sector