ECHOs To Nonprofits Have International Flavor

November 15, 2005       Linda Presto      

Nonprofits and their agencies won 11 of the prized Direct Marketing Association ECHO awards, presented last month at the organization’s annual international conference in Atlanta.

The 2005 ECHO Awards attracted 1,095 commercial and nonprofit entries of which there were five special awards, 18 Gold, 34 Silver, and 40 Bronze winners.

With a competition for giving and limited budgets, the nonprofit sector needed new and fresh ideas. Despite the growing competition in the market, these ECHO Awards winners were able to elicit results from their new and fresh campaigns.

There were no gold nonprofit winners this year. There were six silver award recipients and five took home the bronze.


Stop Violence Against Women

Amnesty International Australia ( AIA )

Pareto Fundraising

Marketplace Challenge:

The vast majority of AIA ’s donor recruitment during the past three years has been acquired through face-to-face fundraising. Their donors had not really responded to direct mail appeals. Thus, the high cash target needed to be raised largely from older donors, many of whom were lapsed or dormant.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The strategy for this direct mail campaign involved conducting a thorough data analysis of all donors’ previous giving patterns.

This analysis was used to reduce traditional volume mailed — target profitable segments and segments that could be reactivated at close to breakeven to achieve net income and reactivation targets.

Any donors recruited by face-to-face methods were omitted from the campaign due to evidence that proved that mailing these donors would get little response. Given that tax time is historically AIA ’s largest campaign in terms of number and value of donations received, an aggressive ask strategy was used for all donors who had made a gift within the past two years.

The mailing was comprised of a four-page letter, outer envelope, reply paid envelope and a lift brochure. Given the nature of the topic and the demographic of AIA ’s supporter base, strong intellectual arguments against the perpetuation of violence against women were combined with emotive human stories. The letters w ere highly personalized including the donor’s name and their level of involvement with the organization, their giving history, whether they were classified as one of AIA ’s major donors and so forth. The letters were further personalized for female donors and promoted empathy with the issue, saying, “every day, thousands of us are beaten…”

Creative Strategy:

The creative strategy of this project focused on the worldwide issue of violence against women. The strong call to action provided an opportunity for donors to do something tangible and immediate. This was coupled with a very visual and emotive lift brochure containing depictions and descriptions of the various execution methods used. It made the proposition that violence against women is the greatest human rights scandal of our time.

The creative was provided by Pareto Fundraising, which decided to include the four-page letter rather than a two-page, which was the standard in previous appeals. The letter was intended to present both intellectual and emotive arguments to encourage donors to support AIA ’s work in the area with a donation to the appeal. It detailed some shocking statistics of worldwide incidence of violence against women, with a special focus on Australian domestic violence statistics to localize the issue.


By the 12th week of the campaign, a net income of $266,204 was achieved, which was more than double the budget ($127,102). Overall, the mailing achieved 5.2:1 ROI, with an average donation of $108.39, an increase from the previous year’s $92.91 average gift. Members or regular donors who had never made additional cash gifts before did so with this appeal.


Skip A Treat

Save the Children ( STC )

Proximity London

Marketplace Challenge:

Charities in the United Kingdom are facing increasing competition. There are a smaller number of people who are giving to charities and they are under pressure to give more. Young people are simply not getting involved. In addition, many charities in the UK are recruiting new donors through face-to-face street interviews. These donors often don’t go on to make repeat gifts to the charity.

The goal was to come up with a campaign for Save the Children Week which would raise funds and recruit new regular donors while highlighting STC ’s campaign to educate the world’s poorest children.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The strategy was based on raising awareness of Save the Children’s education campaign. STC decided to engage the reluctant younger donors by giving them a chance to get involved in Save the Children Week at an everyday level.

Due to a limited budget, efforts needed to be focused on key areas, yet to develop a campaign that was so powerful that it could gain its own momentum by engaging supporters and becoming something that people would actively want to take part in. This was based on a powerful strategic insight — that people want to help but often find the scale of the task charities are facing too daunting. This campaign was to bring the scale down to simple acts of everyday behavior.

Donors were invited to change the lives of the world’s poorest children by the simple act of missing out on a little treat. Hence “Skip a Treat Week.” The approach was integrated using posters, inserts, direct mail, banners, pop-ups, and of course, volunteer support in highly concentrated, powerful combinations.

Creative Strategy:

The creative executions from posters, inserts and direct mail to banners, pop-ups and micro-sites, made use of four basic visual images, all making the point that the money you can save by “skipping a treat” could be used to educate the poor.

A full-page ad in Campaign featured a “meal” made from education supplies, followed by a hand-delivered bag containing a packet of humble cheese and pickle sandwiches as a replacement for the traditional advertising lunch. Every bag contained a letter signed by the agency’s CEO asking for a donation.


This campaign raised $1,726,324.40, which is a fantastic sum based upon the small budget of less than $150,000. Prominent celebrities gave Save the Children their endorsement raising STC ’s profile. The direct mail packet gained a 5 percent response rate with an average donation of 20 pounds giving an ROI of 2:1.


Goldberg Variations

Marie Chouinard Dance Company

Blitz Direct, Data & Promotion

Marketplace Challenge:

Marie Chouinard, the famous Canadian choreographer, decided to adapt for the dance Glenn Gould’s interpretations of JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Private financing was needed to produce the new show. It was going to be a challenge to create interest in the program by triggering positive word of mouth within the business community and to connect the world of banking with the world of contemporary dance.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The idea was to position Marie Chouinard as a key company in Montreal and international cultural life. It needed to create interest by triggering positive word of mouth in the business community. All important was the leveraging of the musical involvement of key Canadian financial community players and demonstrating the importance of each donor to the project’s success by giving each donor a piano key until all keys are sold and the work can be created.

Creative Strategy:

The creative strategy of this production was to focus on the involvement of three personalities from the business world who have each interpreted one of the variations on piano, harpsichord and accordion. A gift CD was inserted into the box and offered prospects to discover for themselves. Also, in each box was a real piano key and at the end, because each key was sold, the work would proceed.


This project nearly tripled its objective, collecting more than $240,000. Opinion leaders, now feeling part of an art success story, know the organization and have agreed to work on future fundraisers themselves.

One thousand boxes were delivered for a total cost of less than $8,000.


Back-To-School Bounceback

World Vision U. S.

The Russ Reid Company

Marketplace Challenge:

The sponsors of World Vision U.S. are highly committed monthly donors providing improved nutrition, shelter, health care, and schooling for a specified child in a developing country. Throughout the year World Vision requests additional giving from these sponsors for the Childcare Ministry Fund to help other children in need. The August mailing is one of their least productive.

Sponsors have typically responded very well to appeals at Christmas and the child’s birthday. The challenge was to design a package compelling enough to overcome the August slump, improve income and the ROI.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The strategy was to give sponsors a simple, tangible way to connect emotionally with their sponsored child and in doing so, to send a generous extra gift. Their gift carried a perceived high value both in terms of educational and emotional impact for the sponsor to return for their child.

In mid-August (2004) as children and families in the U.S. are getting ready to go back to school, the sponsor received a colorful package with an educational “gift” to sign and return for their child. The offer was to send a special donation to the Childcare Ministries Fund to help build schools, train teachers, educate children and meet other urgent needs.

Creative Strategy:

Russ Reid Company created a high-impact, yet low-cost “gift” for the sponsor to sign and return for their child. The gift had to be so appealing that the sponsor would have to return it because they would instantly realize how thrilled their child would be to receive it. The idea was that the more valuable the gift was perceived to be, the higher the donation.

So, designers made a colorful ocean life poster for its visual impact and educational value. But to really hook the sponsor, they included stickers personalized with the child’s name with the knowledge that sponsorship is all about the personal connection.


This single mailing generated $2,752,410 in income from 436,000 sponsors. This represents an increase of 25 percent compared to 2003. The net profit per piece mailed was $5.74 with a ROI of $11.1 for every dollar spent, an increase of 20 percent.

Although this was one of many “extra gift” appeals to these monthly donors, the response rate was 45 percent and the average gift increased by 23 percent.

Teddy Bear Acquisition Test

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Creative Direct Response

Marketplace Challenge:

The purpose was to find a new premium package that would significantly increase response rates. Many of the existing formats, such as name labels and cards are showing marketplace burnout. Something new was needed.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The objective was to substantially increase response rate without causing a decrease in net revenues. Maintaining critical elements of the control package within the test package, such as copy, art and localization would allow MADD to accurately determine whether the new element within the test package was the cause for the increase.

Two lists of 10,000 each were used and split in half on an every other name basis. Some 50 percent of the names would go to the control package and 50 percent would be assigned to the test package. Copy and ask amounts remained the same between both packages, and both packages were mailed on the same date.

Creative Strategy:

The creative strategy set forth by Creative Direct Response was that the teddy bear would offer a much higher perceived value than the control package. In addition, the teddy bear symbolized comfort for surviving family members of drunk driving crashes. In this, as well as the control package, localization within the letter’s text helped bring the issue close to home.


The control yielded a 2.83 percent return with an $84.57 loss per thousand. The Teddy Bear Test had an 8.51 percent return and a $283.64 per thousand profit. The total package cost was only $9,770. The number of new donors increased by almost 300 percent and net revenues were substantially increased.


The 5000 Miracles Campaign

Food For The Poor

Internal Agency

Marketplace Challenge:

Food For The Poor was planning on building more homes in a single year than they had ever done before. This effort required a high level of participation from a broad cross section of the group’s donor base. A large group of donors was asked to step up their giving. This package needed to instantly grab a busy, distracted donor’s imagination and hold it to the point of decision or at least until a follow-up by phone. The campaign required a bold investment of ministry resources that would raise the bar and expose as many donors as possible to this vision of the 5,000 Miracles.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The objective was to raise $10 million to build 5,000 homes. Housing is one of the strongest major donor offers for Food For The Poor. At the heart of this campaign would be a major donor proposal which would lead off a yearlong housing effort. Their initial goal was to meet or exceed the $2.5 million raised in the previous year’s Houses of Hope for Haiti project (one of last year’s Echo Award winners).

The offer was a standard housing ask, $2,000 to provide a safe home for a destitute family in the Caribbean or Latin America . The high-end donors had the option to provide an entire block of six homes and name the street upon which they would be built. The mid-level donors had the option to make a monthly pledge to build a home.

All donors were able to build a home to honor or memorialize a loved one. The first step of the campaign was the mailed proposal. That was followed up by a personal telephone call made by a ministry representative. The effort was rolled out during a four-to-six-month period.

Creative Strategy:

This effort was done completely internally. Food For The Poor knew it needed a dramatic kick-off for this event. It chose a highly visual and interactive format using a clear plastic tube housing architectural blueprints. This would get the donor’s attention.

FFP has never before sent such a large, three-dimensional proposal. The tube’s size would cause it to either stick out in the mailbox or be left against the front door, making it seem like a special delivery.

The effect was that this was no ordinary appeal. Showing through the tube was a large, four-page blue schematic. This visual was to draw the donor in to the need and the solution. Then showing that the solution of a Food For The Poor house is both simple and attainable. The message being that providing a poor family with a house would be an act of Christian compassion and a life changing miracle for the families receiving a new home.


A total package cost of $116,537 turned into gross revenue of $4,472,894 for this project. This represents double the campaign revenue typically raised from both high-end and mid-level donors and represented an excellent start for the campaign’s goal of building 5,000 homes ($10 million) in 2005. Additionally, the high gift proposal audience was expanded from 6,000 to 50,000 with many donors asked to upgrade to a major gift. Of the 2,319 mid-level donor respondents, 505 (21 percent) chose to make a major lifetime upgrade gift of $1,000 or more to further the success of this project.



Fr. Lou’s Suprise Birthday Card

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Marketplace Challenge:

Continuing to cultivate the relationship with its donors was the challenge for the Missionary Association this year. It wanted to communicate with their donors in effective ways and cultivate donor loyalty by providing its donors with a perceived personal relationship with Fr. Lou.

This mailing to its most loyal donor base positioned them in such a way that they could draw on that perceived relationship and send out an appeal that centered on Fr. Lou’s birthday. The challenge was to come up with something fresh and unique to build upon the relationships between Fr. Lou and the donors and raise funds for the mission in a new way.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The strategy was to communicate to the donors through Fr. Lou’s personal secretary, someone with whom the donors were unfamiliar. The letter in the package was from her and asked the donors to send in a donation and return an enclosed card on behalf of Fr. Lou for his birthday. This was for all his tireless efforts in serving the world’s poor.

After the initial response, a follow-up mailing was sent that included a small note from Fr. Lou thanking them for their donation, as well as a photo of him, his secretary and all the cards that were sent back to him in recognition of his birthday. Asking donors for a donation in the form of a birthday present for Fr. Lou that would be used to help support the mission was a successful tactic for the Missionary Association.

Creative Strategy:

The message behind this campaign was to provide donors with a way to give to the missions while sending prayers and surprising Fr. Lou on his birthday. The birthday card was included in the donor packet where the donor could include a special message or prayer intentions of their own, to make the donor feel as though they were communicating directly with Father and his secretary.

Outside the mailing was what looked like a personal mailing label from Fr. Lou’s secretary and all responses were mailed back to her, so she could surprise him with them on his birthday. The follow-up mailing consisted of a note from Fr. Lou thanking everyone for such a wonderful surprise on his birthday, and included a photo of Fr. Lou sitting at his desk through all the cards with his secretary.


The campaign far exceeded the Mission ’s expectations. Typical results for a direct mail campaign usually show an overall response rate around 6.5 percent, with an average gift amount of approximately $16. For this campaign, results were an overall response rate of 49.3 percent, nearly 8 times their average campaign, and a higher than average gift of $19.63. The total package cost was approximately $10,000.


St. Jude Congressional Medal Campaign

ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Lisa Selner Creative

Marketplace Challenge:

St. Jude was in need of an October mail plan. The previous year was a calendar mailing with artwork by St. Jude pediatric patients. The calendars did not work as well with mid-level donors as they did with under $250 donors. The challenge was to devise a new approach that would resonate with this sophisticated group of donors. The calendars represented a theme of seasonality and they needed to create a campaign that could replace it.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital , received the National Medal by an Act of Congress. This medal was presented to him by Ronald Reagan. President Reagan died a few months before the mailing and it was dominating the national consciousness. With both men passed on, this was an appropriate opportunity to flash back to that moment in time and link the donor to these two men and present the occasion as a platform for a contribution to St. Jude.

The offer was from Marlo Thomas, Danny’s daughter and spokesperson for the hospital. She wrote to present a replica of this Congressional Gold Medal Danny Thomas had received from President Ronald Reagan.

Carefully positioned copy read: “With President Reagan’s recent passing, a chapter has closed for two remarkable men of the same generation, both with roots in the entertainment industry, both of whom went on to devote themselves to public service efforts they deeply believed in.”

The package was three-dimensional to accommodate th e medal in its own jewel case and it was placed in a simple white box. It was mailed first-class with live postage almost four months to the day of Reagan’s nationally-televised state funeral.

Creative Strategy:

The medal was a token which would be appreciated by donors, especially at this poignant time. After Reagan’s long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, he had transcended most Republican/Democratic political divisions. His life was being remembered and celebrated by people of all political beliefs, and the strategy was to tap into that sentimentality and goodwill.

The campaign included four color photographs of the White House ceremony that had been taken by St. Jude staff, which were put into a folio with captions from Marlo Thomas. The medals were produced with permission by a private vendor and presented in a velvet jewel box with an insertion with the medal’s technical specifications and a certificate of authenticity to position the medal as a collector’s item.

The four-page letter from Marlo Thomas asked the donor to take this occasion to honor her father’s memory by continuing to support his work to find cures and save children.


This package pulled a 12.36 percent response rate, with an average gift of nearly $800, the highest in the history of the St. Jude major donor program. The net profit per thousand pieces mailed was $85,859. The mailing brought in just over $806,000 from a little more than 8,000 donors. The total cost of the package was $99,522.


U.S. Fund for UNICEF World Heroes Game

U. S. Fund for UNICEF

Mindshare Interactive Campaigns

Marketplace Challenge:

The primary obstacle was to provide an educational tool for young people to learn about UNICEF that both allowed for retention of the information and a fun activity that would encourage repeat users. UNICEF World Heroes is an interactive game which has five missions reflective of UNICEF’s five core themes. The five core themes were incorporated into all aspects of the game in order to provide an engaging resource to educate children about the organization’s mission.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

The idea is simply to educate children about UNICEF’s five core themes: Education, Immunization, Emergencies, Nutrition and Clean Water. The target audience was children ages 6 through 11.

The game features a fun, interactive environment where the children can play a game and learn about the benefits of supporting UNICEF’s mission. The long-term goal is to expand this educational game’s reach to include children in other countries.

This campaign and the World Heroes Game was heavily promoted as part of the Trick or Treat for UNICEF October 2004 campaign. The Cartoon Network donated television advertising and placed banners on their Web site home page.

Each of the more than 50,000 children who signed up to collect money for UNICEF during Halloween received an email about the game. Further, UNICEF sent information to these children as a part of a newsletter to a nationwide supporter network.

Creative Strategy:

The goal of the UNICEF World Heroes Game is to help deliver important supplies to children in need. The core mission of UNICEF involved the five themes (Education, Immunization, Emergencies, Nutrition and Clean Water) and those are incorporated into all aspects of the game.

To tie it all together, the game consists of five missions taking place in five regions of the world where UNICEF routinely conducts these activities. UNICEF also created characters to merge with the branding of their new endeavor so that the child may pick the character with which they most identify.

Also included was a two-level system within each of the five missions to add a level of difficulty and hopefully keep the user engaged for a longer timeframe. Within each mission level the player must catch supplies that are dropped from a UNICEF-branded aircraft. All items are related to the core themes.


This campaign was developed for UNICEF in less than two weeks for a total cost of $10,000. The media was donated by Cartoon Network. During the first month, there were approximately 11,000 game plays a day, which is roughly some 345,000 for the month.

More than half of users played the game more than once. The game was featured in the New York Times on February 4, 2005 as a successful tool for engaging audiences online.

This creative and innovative approach to make learning fun and easy to retain for young people is a valuable component of UNICEF’s communications efforts for the future.


300,000 Children Don’t Play War

Save The Children Alliance Sweden

Draft Sweden

Marketplace Challenge:

Save The Children is a multinational charitable organization. This year’s campaign was developed to help disarm the child soldiers of the world and reunite them with their families, giving them back their childhood and the right to go to school and play. The challenge of this campaign was to gain the support of donors in an environment that is already saturated with requests for donations.

Marketing Strategy & Tactics:

Using summertime was an effective period for Swedish fundraisers. People are more relaxed and have more time to spend on direct mail pieces. However, every charitable organization plans their appeals at this time. Market competition is fierce. Save the Children’s project needed to stand out from the others with a message and approach compelling to their target audience.

This campaign incorporated a broader approach, including print and outdoor media on the theme of “300,000 Children Don’t Play War.” The mass media efforts were designed to attract support from new donors. The direct mail program concentrated on converting one-time donors to monthly donors. A combination of outdoor posters, full-page ads and direct mail targeted donors with a plea to give again in support of the work of Save The Children Alliance Sweden particularly with children caught in the effects of war.

Creative Strategy:

This appeal was built around a concrete project rather than simply using references to the broad range of works done by Save The Children Alliance Sweden . Use of a strong, eye-catching issue told the story of individuals who were “rescued” by the organization. This campaign focused on promoting the emotionally charged issue of child soldiers and the efforts to Save The Children to help return these young people to a normal, healthy childhood.

The theme was “300,000 Children Don’t Play War.” The prospective donors would remember how children often “play war.” But for these children war isn’t play — it’s real. Visually this theme was shown through a shooting target in silhouette of a baby soldier, representing children as both victim and soldier. The silhouette was perforated by real bullet holes creating a jarring revelation of the true terror these children are facing each day, and drawing an emotional response and need to take action.


The overall new donor acquisition totaled 4 percent better than target for this project. The average donation was 16 percent more than target and Save The Children gained 7,900 new donors from direct mail. These successful results were in spite of the fact that two other organizations were raising funds for the same basic cause at the same time as this campaign. The total costs of the campaign were confidential but it ranged between $250,000 and $500,000 to produce.


Drop of Water

The ABFL (Associacao Beneficiente Frei Luiz)

Sunset Communicacao

Marketplace Challenge:

The ABFL asked Federal University to develop a project to collect and store water from the rain which falls during a short season to help people from the arid land of Brazil . This area is struck by drought, poverty and famine. The University came up with a project consisting of the construction of family systems through collective effort. The challenge was to raise enough funds to make it feasible to properly meet the demand of the population. A key success factor was the approach that focused on the awareness of citizenship and the evident surrounding poverty.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics:

There were two strategies leading to the success of this campaign. One was the lucky and differentiated approach which made the people get in touch with the message at the very moment they were enjoying having plenty of water to satisfy their needs. The other key element was the approach that focused on the awareness of citizenship and the surrounding poverty.

Two bottled water suppliers agreed to deliver folders of the campaign together with the bottles of water. Big participating companies placed folders of the campaign next to fountains. A conventional mailing was sent to the mailing list supplied by the Workers Union and a dramatic email marketing message leveraged the results. All the ad units drove the audience to a reply channel, which was an ABFL bank account number in order to allow the donation to be contributed directly to the Association.

Creative Strategy:

The focus of this program was the awareness of citizenship. One does not need to look into Africa or Indonesia problems when the local surrounding poverty is unfolded. After that, the effort was to turn the appalling drought into a tangible reality.


The different strategies utilized were coded and contained different results: Flyers delivered with water bottles — 18 percent response rate; Folders at water fountains — 9.3 percent response rate; 38,489 conventional mail messages — 4.3 percent response rate. The Union database resulted in 38,300 valid email addresses for a monthly income above US$ 400. The email marketing message was sent to this audience with 16.8 percent leads and 3.8 percent effective donations.

The campaign cost was $6,000 and made possible by the donation of graphic artwork, creation and mailing lists.