Advice to my younger-fundraising-self about about direct mail

blog carnivalThis month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and this month’s theme is: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?” As I’ve done each of the last three year’s when I’ve hosted the carnival, I plan on focusing this month’s DonorDreams blog posts on the topic as a way to help inspire other non-profit bloggers to submit posts for consideration. The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is scheduled to go live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. So, mark your calendars because you won’t want to miss what other non-profit bloggers have to say on this topic.
Today’s time machine post involves a younger me who learned valuable lessons about direct mail after a fateful experience with one of my first year-end holiday appeals. Enjoy!

rocky horrorAs a teenager, I was a Rocky Horror Picture Show groupie, which I bet you couldn’t have guessed, especially now that I routinely wear a tie and constantly talk about non-profit, fundraising and organizational development stuff. I’ve seen this cult movie more than 50 times in my life,
So, there you have it. LOL
I only mention this weird little personal fact about me because today is Tim Curry’s 70th birthday. For those who have experienced this movie, you understand that Curry’s Rocky Horror character, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, is a time traveling transvestite from outer space. Of course, I only mention all of this because this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival is time travel related.
Speaking of going back in time, if I had the opportunity to do so, one place I might stop top give my younger-fundraising-self a little advice would be November 2001. I was a relatively new executive director, and I was grappling with how to bring the cost of my year-end holiday mail appeal down.
timewarpInstead of picking up the phone and talking to mail professionals, that 31-year-old executive director decided to engage a few friends and do a 12,000 piece mailer by himself. Uh-huh. I thought it would be easy to:

  • Print everything in-house
  • Fold
  • Stuff
  • Stamp (pre-paid nonprofit stamps)
  • Lick
  • Sort
  • Box
  • Deliver to the post office

I’m sure you have already guessed that my friends quickly abandon ship after the first few hours and figuring out the insanity of what I was asking.
But did you skip over the bullet point labeled “LICK“.
Somewhere after the first few hundred letters, I made the decision that the wet sponge was just too sloppy. So, instead of using less water, I made the horrible decision to lick every stamp and every envelope.
When I think back to that moment in time, I still get that HORRIBLE taste in my mouth I experienced at the end of that long weekend. <ick>
If time travel was possible, I would go back and provide the following advice to my younger-fundraising-self:

  1. Don’t quickly dismiss the idea of calling a mail house because they might have been able to save you money with CASS certification and bar code automation (e.g. you never know unless you ask . . . work smart)
  2. Don’t lick those stamps and envelopes (it won’t save you any more money . . . it won’t raise you more money . . . it might even make you sick)

If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and submit a post for consideration on this month’s carnival theme, click here to read the “call for submissions” post I published last week. It should answer all of your questions and clearly explain how to submit your entry. If not, then simply email me and I’ll be happy to help.
Here’s to your health! (And Happy Birthday, Tim!)
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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