Like everyone, I’ve got a habitual, auto-pilot process for managing the physical mail. And since I, like many a reader, am on a million and one seed lists and donate to charities I receive a #$@% ton of charity mail.
Plus, my family has what seems a daily supply of last-mile delivery from online, consumer purchases. That means more mail since they’re good multi-channel marketers.
How people mentally and physically process, sort and manage mail is not titillating cocktail party conversation but it’s pretty damn mission critical for us.
One thing’s clear, processing one’s mail is a behavioral rut like brushing one’s teeth. We don’t reinvent it each day, we look for repetition to breed efficiency and remove cognitive load. That rut is good if it breeds repeat giving and bad if breeding trash binning.
Breaking the rut requires understanding it. Here’s what we know from DonorVoice research. There are three behavior patterns to process charity mail.
Defensive & Selective
- I try to find out when I last gave to a charity before making a donation.
- I feel I must protect myself from the mail I get from charities.
- I feel annoyed when I receive charity appeals in the mail and usually discard them without paying much attention.
- I donate primarily to charities of a certain type.
- I usually know before I open the envelope whether I will give to a charity.
Quick & Permissive
- I give to a wide variety of charities.
- If I might give to a charity, I put the letter in a box or large pile for later reference.
- I don’t read letters from charities very carefully before deciding whether to make a donation.
- I use simple “rules of thumb” for deciding whether to donate to a charity.
- I do not spend a lot of effort understanding each letter I get from a charity.
Cause-Driven & Cautious
- I write down when I donate to a charity so that I will not donate again too soon
- I am usually too busy to give careful consideration to all of the contents of a charitable mailing.
- If a charity seems good, it might make it on “my list.”
- If a charity appeal conflicts with my political views, I am more likely to throw it away without considering it.
It’s worth underscoring these are patterns of behavior, not donor clusters. The next step is finding out if different people adopt different strategies and if we can identify them using 3rd party data and other proxy selections.
More to come on that but at this early foundational stage we believe the juice will be worth the squeeze. Why?
Behavior pattern trumps everything else. A common thread across all three patterns is using mental shortcuts to reduce mental effort and facilitate give/don’t give decision making.
My auto-pilot ruts get me through the day, it would take a bunker busting approach to cause me to deviate.
Your direct mail package can be the most perfect compilation of story, message matching trait, format, design, etc. If part of your strategy doesn’t factor in how to derail the pattern that puts you in the trash bin, nothing else matters.
Here’s an example. Our early data analysis suggests the Quick & Permissive strategy is adopted more often by those high in Agreeableness. This finding has face validity since these are ‘yes’ people, they are kind and motivated to help others. How might I factor this into my approach?
- These are donors on your house file who give sporadically, waxing and waning from active to “lapsed”.
- Combine this behavior pattern on your CRM with an Agreeable Personality Tag for added precision.
- Standard #10 envelope, easy to handle and open.
- Color: A soft, pastel shade, possibly light blue or light green on the back of the OE, which is soothing and yet stands out among regular white mail.
- Callouts: A bold yet simple message like “Your Kindness Matters” or “Help Us Make a Change”
- Additional Elements: A small graphic or icon representing unity or inclusiveness, such as interlinked hands or a globe.
- Standard letter size, single page for simplicity
- Style: Clean and minimalistic. Generous spacing to aid quick reading. Bold headers for easy skimming
- Tone: Grateful, inviting, and acknowledging their broad charitable spirit. “Every bit counts, and your willingness to help a variety of causes has not gone unnoticed. Join us in making a difference.”
- Images: One central, impactful image that evokes emotion and connection. It could be beneficiaries of the charity, or perhaps volunteers in action. The image should convey the message that the donation will make a genuine difference.
- Clear sections for filling in details. A pre-checked box saying “Yes, I want to help” to further simplify the response process.
- Payment Options: Multiple simple “rules of thumb” tiers for donation amounts. Heavy focus and emphasis on auto-renew for check payment and invite online with messaging aimed at ease but also make it recurring so don’t miss out on showing your support.
- Inclusion: An option for donors to add the charity to their “list” or subscribe for updates, showing them that they are part of a community.
None of this is random and more importantly, it’s targeted at a group of people and not everyone. People are different and 99% of testing in our sector ignores this reality with random nth selection and thinking.
This is built on a fuller definition of behavioral science, breaking down human decision making into their motivations and the mental and physical barriers that stand in the way.
This can be your True North for fundraising.