“Why is Direct Marketing behaving in this way?”

A bit of a taster or my recent IOF London’s First Thursday masterclass “How to set up a direct marketing fundraising programme”

“Think of a cause, any cause, and I will give them £10…”

I started my talk by offering to give away the ticket price of the event to anyone willing to tell me their name and why they wanted to make the donation but, in order the qualify, they had to…

Think of that cause now. Think about the work that they do and imagine, if you’re not already, imagine you are a long term supporter with a monthly direct debit.

Now imagine you see an appeal from that organisation. Any type of appeal but one asking for you to increase your direct debit. The appeal might be about a new project or the need to do more work. And this appeal makes you want to increase your direct debit. So you do. You increase your direct debit by the amount the appeal asked for. Then, a few days later, you get three letters. Three separate, similar looking, letters:

  • One is a letter thanking for your old direct debit amount.
  • Another is the same thank you letter for a lesser amount.
  • And the third is a thank you letter for the new amount you have just increased your direct debit to.

Three, almost identical, yet contradictory letters. With your bank account details on them!

How does that make you feel? (The consensus in the room was that you would be pissed off)

Well it is a true story. All of that did happen and I was the person that sent the three letters. The man who got the letters thought we were wasting his money. Fair enough. So he telephoned the chief exec (by boss’s, boss’s boss!) and told him what he thought. And the chief exec emailed my then director and asked her,

“Why is direct marketing behaving in this way?”

I got the message from her by email too, because I was in database training that day. I didn’t comprehend the irony at the time.

The problem was that previous donations were not marked acknowledged. My process thanked all the gifts not marked acknowledged and I did not realise, when I sent the 50 or so thank you letters, that there were more letters than there should have been. So although that wasn’t completely my fault, it was my responsibility.

And from this I learned the obvious but important things about direct marketing.

The three obvious but improvement important things about direct marketing.

  1. Each person has the potential to take what you do very personally.
  2. A grasp of the detail will help you make that a process works for you and your cause.
  3. Sometimes you have to embrace failure.

I then got to the point and explained how to set up a direct marketing fundraising programme and gave away my £10.  Anna from CAFOD was the lucky fundraiser, here’s the proof (because transparency in fundraising is always a good thing)