Why trashing DM could boost its effectiveness

Russell Parsons

Charities are being urged to invest in marketing despite cuts to their budget in the face of less available public money. But is a piece of DM that points out the failings of the channel the right strategy for a charity to boost donations?

According to a recent report from lobby group False Economy, the third sector faces a £110m funding shortfall. Smaller not for profits, previously semi-reliant on local authority help are scratching their heads to find new ways to engage the public. Others are battling ever increasing household bills and the threat of redundancy for the public’s attention and money.

Most are agreed that charities need to do something different. Positive messages about actual contributions, using digital channels to engage the young or shock tactics to lay bare the consequences of not giving are all strategies being considered or launched.

What I have not yet seen is a marketing campaign that points out the ineffectiveness and irksome nature of the channel being used. Until now. Cancer Research has produced an unaddressed mail campaign that asks at the off “and what’s wrong with this letter?”

It continues with its rather apologetic tone by pointing out that “fewer people are choosing to respond to letters like this” perhaps because people feel like they are being “inundated with mailings from credit card providers, pizza delivery companies and, of course, plenty of other charities”.

It goes on to plead that people pause before consigning the letter to landfill, before detailing why their contribution is essential in pointed terms.

Why your money is required, what it will be used for and demonstrable proof that donations make a difference.

By acknowledging that a fair chunk of recipients see such mailings as “junk”, Cancer Research is trying to demonstrate that it recognises people’s often paradoxical relationship with mail.

Unaddressed mail is one of the great anomalies of marketing. People shout loudly about its contribution to society’s ills but it continues to be used, increasingly so, according to most studies.

Cancer Research has recognised that it needs to both reflect people’s unease, while pursuing use of a cheap, targeted channel. It also, in its content, demonstrates an enviable recognition of people want to hear from a charity in these straitened times.

A charity might be the only kind organisation that could pull off the trick of at once trashing, while using a channel. Similar innovative thinking is required by others in the third sector.

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