Strategic creative choices fueled a renewed success in Republican fundraising mail last cycle, offering some hope for campaigns struggling to raise funds as the Facebook political ad ban drags on.
“Fundraising mail, that old standby, worked really well in the 2020 cycle, partly because people were reading their mail,” said Scott Cottington of the Voyageur Company. “One of the reasons it was so successful in 2020 is we had a motivated base and we tried some new techniques. If you do bargain-basement, cheap fundraising mail, it’s boring. Every step you can take to make it more personalized, more intriguing, the better.”
Breaking through with fundraising mail requires specific creative choices with the packaging, the copy and even the data used to target the donors. Those considerations were even more important this cycle.
“It’s really all about improving each and every marginal thing,” said Cottington. “On the carrier envelope, name and address, put a live stamp on — everything done to improve the attractiveness of the package adds up.”
Cottington said his shop did one package that had the candidate’s color photograph on the carrier envelope. “By doing that we were able to insert a little bit of personality into what can otherwise be a dry product,” he said. “I think mail was as productive this cycle as I’ve ever seen it. Part of it was the intensity, part of it was the lockdown, part of it was the technology and data work.”
Lindsay Jacobs Seti, executive director of Majority Money, said that she was able to use data more creatively this cycle to help improve yields. “From a creative standpoint, my big takeaway would be that you can be as cutting edge as you want to be, but at the end of the day, data drives our decisions in terms of what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
Instead of aesthetics, Jacobs Seti focused on other tweaks to her clients’ fundraising mail programs: “For us, it was more the message and how it pertained back to the data. We have the graphics that can get people to open letters. But what we need is an argument that can resonate personally with the person who is reading it.
“It’s about gathering information about what works, what messages are resonating, and pulling all of that together to make educated decisions about what we’re saying to people and who we’re saying it to.”
She added: “A lot of focus has been put on digital, but people did put a lot of effort into direct fundraising mail and it did pay off.”