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DMAW Recap: Direct Marketing 101 Workshop

by Heather Bien

Last week over 20 direct marketing professionals came together for Direct Marketing 101 Workshop (DM101). While backgrounds ranged from direct marketing agency professionals to nonprofit employees managing direct marketing within their own organization, most attendees came in with 1-3 years of direct marketing experience and were eager to hear from Washington area experts in the field.

The morning started with a lesson in Creative from Steve Fleshman of DR2. Attendees learned the tricks of the trade in making your mailing stand out from the countless other direct marketing pieces that people receive on any given day. Did you know that lots of enclosures increase the amount of time a potential donor spends with a mailing package? Or that a letter signer lower down the “food chain” at an organization actually lifts response? And a lift note can increase response rates by 10%!

Next, Nancy Guy Freeman walked us through Direct Mail Production. Her decades of experience helped attendees understand the most cost effective ways to work with a printer and mailhouse. Ms. Freeman was followed by Lisa Riordan of Infogroup Nonprofit. Ms. Riordan emphasized the importance of data processing as standardizing, correcting, validating, and enhancing. Clean data increases efficiency and brings down costs so merge-purge optimization is central to any well run direct marketing program.

Kevin Litten of EU Services began the afternoon with a lesson in mailshop options that attendees may not have considered before, such as postcard acknowledgement programs, self-mailers for
Following Mr. Litten was Kelly Leech of Carol Enters List Company. Ms. Leech set out to convince us that sharing names and lists is not a bad thing! List brokers are experts on determining which lists are best to share among which nonprofits and can use their market knowledge to think outside the box and provide an organization with the best results for acquisition.instant impact, low cost marketing materials, and invitation style mailers. Mr. Litten also walked us through a few postage tricks of the trade such as using miscellaneous stamps on in house mailings to give them a more personal feel, postage “indicias” which puts the logo of an organization in a postage meter, and intelligent mail bar codes.

Tracy Lea explained the ins and outs of a successful telemarketing campaign. Telemarketing can and should be used for successful reinstatement, stewardship, and relationship building. A no on the phone should lead to a letter thanking the potential donor for their time – this tactic typically sees higher response rates through the mail than a letter alone. Telemarketing is an essential part of fundraising as multi-channel donors have a higher lifetime value than just mail or email donors.

Barb Perell of Avalon Consulting wrapped up the day with an overview of Online Fundraising. Again, the multi-channel donor came into play as she explained the importance of coordinating communications across all fundraising channels. It’s also essential to make sure emails are segmented to certain donors through the use of data, are to the point, and are part of a larger email campaign plan. Don’t just send out an eblast one time – create an entire email marketing plan and remember to use catchy subject lines, photos, and time them according to when your donors tend to open email (use data!)

All attendees, regardless of their previous background and experience, left DM101 with a greater understanding of direct marketing and new ideas and fresh concepts to take back to their own organization. DM201 is May 15 and it is sure to be an even deeper dive into the world of direct marketing – don’t forget to register today!

The DM101 workshop was made possible through several wonderful sponsors: Colortree Group, Metropolitan Companies, Inc., Bigeye Direct, National Mail Graphics Corporation, and RWT Production, LLC.


Heather Bien is the Manager of the Annual Fund at Washington National Cathedral where she has worked since December 2010. She can be reached at