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No one can dispute that the nonprofit industry lags behind commercial trends and ideas. Because of this “catching up” mentality, many organizations are focusing heavily on package data, donor information, and file audits.  

While the usefulness of these focuses is unquestioned, they don’t encompass all that goes into a direct mail package. Imagine this scenario: An agency is telling a nonprofit all about the components that will be placed in a package, and then providing projections to the client based on test history, segmentation, etc. These projections are always so good that the nonprofit would be silly to let the opportunity slip away.

This is where I’ll pause. Don’t get me wrong; extensive testing has proved that adding things like cards to a package can improve response rate, average gift, cost to acquire, and any other metric used for direct mail. In an industry so focused on data, what often seems to be lost is the same scientific application to the creative side. Those cards I mentioned aren’t all equal. Depending on theme, color, fold, size, and many other artistic factors, the success of that card package could vary greatly.

It goes beyond simply changing things to be “prettier” or more appealing to your eyes, though. Obviously taking that same scientific mindset and applying it to creative testing is important. The art may seem like the last thing that should be focused on, but small changes in font, copy, look, etc., can have huge impacts on the results of a campaign. The necessity of focusing on the creative becomes extremely apparent when case studies are examined.

One Innovairre case study tested the potential cost-savings benefit of removing card embellishments in a specific mailing. The control lot included four highly embellished cards (foiled and embossed), while the test lot had the same art on the cards without the embellishments. By doing this simple creative test, the client was able to net an additional 32%.

In another case study, this time a double calendar package, the only variable modified from control to test was the theme of images used in one of the two calendars. The control was “birds” and the test was “puppies and kittens.” This simple (and free) change led to response rate improving by 5%, average gift increasing by 9%, and net revenue for the package jumping 20%.

I highly doubt that any nonprofit, regardless of size or situation, would turn down an additional 20% net revenue on a package without any additional cost.

Most nonprofit organizations run file audits on their house donor file in order to gain a better understanding of their donors. In a world of data tracking, it only seems logical that creative would be tracked and audited as well. Every organization that runs a creative audit can benefit from improvements in response rate, average gift, and net. All of that really leads to the most important thing: maximizing the organization’s ability to serve their cause and do the most good.

Innovairre offers creative audits through our CSI (Creative Strategy and Innovation) group to help organizations improve their direct mail packages. Because Innovairre runs thousands of tests with diverse clientele and draws from a large breadth of information, a creative audit by Innovairre can help any client improve the return on every package they are mailing.

Grant Novins is a Marketing Data Analyst at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For a creative audit or more about our case studies, contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.