Donors received certificates

Client: Kingston General Hospital FoundationAgency: CanadaDirect Database MarketingIn an attempt to convince past donors to renew their commitment, the Kingston General Hospital Foundation sent donors a frameable certificate recognizing their contribution to the Kingston, Ont. institution.The certificate showed a stylized representation...

Client: Kingston General Hospital Foundation

Agency: CanadaDirect Database Marketing

In an attempt to convince past donors to renew their commitment, the Kingston General Hospital Foundation sent donors a frameable certificate recognizing their contribution to the Kingston, Ont. institution.

The certificate showed a stylized representation of The Heritage Tree, a large brass tree in the hospital lobby on which the names of donors are inscribed.

An accompanying brochure provided information about the three levels of sponsorship, along with a business reply card that reviewed the options.

The objective was twofold, says Michael Carbone, art director at the hospital’s Montreal-based agency CanadaDirect Database Marketing: to convince as many donors to renew, and to introduce the idea that additional benefits were available with increased levels of sponsorship.

A follow-up mailing, requesting a donation for a specific wing of the hospital, was sent to those who did not respond.

Q. Why was this piece successful? What made it work?

A. We think it was successful because of the recognition factor. We were recognizing the donor’s relationship with the hospital and the community.

Q. On what level were you trying to generate a response – an emotional level or an intellectual level?

A. Probably, both.

Emotionally, we wanted to build a sense of partnership, a sense of togetherness between the donor and the hospital and a sense of responsibility toward the hospital.

In wave two, it was more of an intellectual response. We sent out a brochure with a lot of information about a particular wing.

Q. What qualities do successful direct mail pieces have in common?

A. Three things – the copy, the design, and, of course, saying the right things to the right people.

Q. How important is personalizing the letter?

A. In this case, for Kingston General, personalization was everything. It was of the utmost importance because it was a personal package.

We were sending a personal certificate signed by the directors of the hospital, directly to the donors. We could never put a pre-printed letter in with this.

In direct mail, you have so many segments, you present different offers to different types of people.

That’s where personalization comes in – to get closer to whatever segments you want to talk to, rather than just generalizing.

Q. Do you favor long or short letters?

A. In this case, a short letter was used because we had a short message.

We’ve worked on other projects where we’ve sent out four-page letters and they were very effective because we had a lot of information to get across.

Everything depends on who you are sending to and the information you have to get across.

Q. How important to the success of the direct mail piece is knowing your prospects?

A. That is of utmost importance.

You have to really know who you’re sending to because when you know who you are sending to, you know what to say. You become very familiar with the type of donor. It’s very important.

In this case, we knew what they had done for the hospital, and we were able to tell them what more they could do.

Q. People are bombarded with direct mail offers every day. How do you make yours stand out from the rest?

A. In fundraising, it’s a little different. There are no tags or teaser copy.

The people who are contributors know who they are, and when they get an envelope from the hospital, they know what it’s about.

I don’t think they need mystery, surprise or intrigue.

Q. Is there a hierarchy of objectives, creatively?

A. All elements together create the package.

Essentially, good copy is No. 1, along with knowing who you are sending to, so you can create the look of the package to appeal to these people.

Q. How hard should you press for a response?

A. Here’s where it’s a little tricky.

In fundraising, there is a way to put very potent copy in a soft velvet glove.

Q. Do you see direct mail primarily as support for mass media advertising, or as a stand-alone medium?

A. It’s the reverse, really. Mass media would be a support, with the direct mail piece being the driver itself.

Q. How are the rules changing in direct mail? What are you doing in creative that you might not have done two years ago?

A. Interactive pieces have been becoming a new part of direct mail.

For a couple of hospitals, we have created die-cut ornaments for the season. Prospects receive two ornaments.

One they keep, and one they can send back with a personal message and their donation.

The hospitals put these ornaments on a tree in the lobby so anyone going to visit the hospital can see evidence of people’s donations.