FYI Blog

In Honor of the Workhorse Appeal

In a June Agitator post, Play It Again, Sam, Tom Belford makes the point that if something works well in direct mail, you should use it again and again—and not only in your acquisition program. Check out this National Parks Conservation Association case study, which perfectly illustrates the power of the workhorse appeal – mailed year after year with strategic tests to great success.


The annual NPCA Calendar Appeal is a way to thank members for their commitment to our national parks with a keepsake that can be used and enjoyed throughout the year. The appeal also provides an opportunity to ask members for a special contribution to protect the parks. The two follow ups, sent within short succession after the initial appeal, confirm that the donor received his/her calendar and again ask members to support NPCA with an additional gift.


The Calendar effort stands out each year in a 9” x 12” carrier with two eye-catching teasers: JUST FOR YOU: See Inside About Your Two Free Gifts! and Handle with care. The actual calendar spotlights breathtaking national park vistas – from Glacier National Park to Antietam National Battlefield – that members will enjoy year-round. A two-page letter thanks members for their role in recent NPCA victories and highlights current challenges facing the National Park System.

The four-color, monarch-sized carrier of the first follow-up effort reminds members of their recent free gift with thumbnail photos of the 12 months of calendar images. The Did you get it? teaser also recalls the initial mailing. In a friendly note, NPCA’s president conveys his hope that members are enjoying their calendars and reiterates the importance of supporting NPCA’s critical work to protect and preserve national parks for future generations.

The second follow-up effort is a 4”x6” package featuring a notecard that once again reminds the member of their love of our National Parks and encourages them to give a gift in order to help protect these national treasures.

The Calendar package and both follow-ups are mailed to NPCA’s active membership file.


This campaign has continued to produce improved results year-over-year despite the flood of competitive calendars offered by other organizations. All key metrics show a steady increase over each of the last three years, with the average gift increasing by 4% from FY12 to FY13 and further rising by 7% from FY13 to FY14. The response rate has increased by 6% from FY12 to FY14. The gross and net increases from FY12 to FY14 are particularly impressive, at a stunning 12% and 13%, respectively.

It’s important to note that strategic improvements have been made to the campaign each year – from art changes that reduced costs and improved net revenue, to modeling the mailing lists for the follow-up efforts to produce the strongest return, to testing new creative. Innovation in work horse efforts such as this one comes through this strategic testing and adjustment: continually trying to improve results but still capitalizing on the tried and true.

The end result is a reliable work horse appeal that continues to perform and improve year after year, providing a tangible, valued gift to members and raising significant revenue for NPCA.