Star Wars analogy enlightens Institute of Fundraising conference
Successful direct mail is like the Millennium Falcon of fundraising, it looks cheap and ugly but gets results.
Adrian Salmon, head of alumni fundraising at the University of Leeds, told delegates at the Institute of Fundraising Scotland conference that the university increased income by 700% by creating a cheaper looking direct mail pack.
"For seven years we'd been sabotaging ourselves," he said after redesigning the university's beautifully on-brand mailing.
Salmon's key message was that direct mail should focus on the donor and turn them into the hero.
We started talking about what people were interested in and not what we were interested in
In a Star Wars themed presentation, Salmon explained that charities can learn lots for Princess Leia's famous words: "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, your my only hope."
Contrary to contemporary digital communications techniques, direct mail should be long form, in bold, large and ugly fonts, contain lots of direct appeals, be over emotional and look like the organisation is desperate for funds.
As responses come mostly from over 50s, sending direct mail to younger donors is also a waste of money.
"Direct mail was less than 10% of our income in the 10 years before and since 2012 has increased to between 40 to 50%. The difference is that we started talking about what people were interested in and not what we were interested in," concluded Salmon.