FYI Blog

The Bottom Line: Refresh Your Creative Approach

This month’s case studies feature two instances where a shift in creative approach resulted in much-improved appeal response rates.


National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Holiday Appeal


Objective: Not wanting to forgo the traditionally blockbuster holiday and year-end giving season because of NCMEC’s potentially sad message, Avalon designed a creative appeal that would honor the organization’s mission, while compelling donors to make a contribution.


all 3 togetherStrategy and Audience: Addressing a heart-rending topic – missing and exploited children – at a time when many people are joyously gathering with their families, can be a daunting challenge. Avalon’s creative approach was to appeal for donors’ help in making other families’ gatherings whole again. We developed the compelling narrative of an empty chair at the holiday table, to draw in the donors and express broken families’ need for support and compassion – without overpowering donors with the frightening thought of a missing child at holiday time. The letter explained that through donor support, NCMEC helps to make sure that thousands of those chairs are filled with safe, happy children celebrating the holidays with their families. This heartfelt message from NCMEC President John Walsh – along with the image of a vulnerable child – struck the perfect balance between despair and hope; loss and recovery; grief and celebration. The red carrier and real return address label added to the appeal’s personal feel. We mailed to NCMEC’s 0-12 month donors ($10-$999) and 13-24 month donors ($50-999).


Results: This holiday appeal produced the highest gross and net revenues in NCMEC’s donor program history, beating the previous highest grossing appeal by 19%! The response rate was 43% higher than the previous year’s November appeal, and the average gift was 19% higher. New joins had a response rate of 8.7%, and multi-year members responded at 12.47%. Even lapsed donors responded at 3.38%.


National Parks Conservation Association Mini-proposal Appeal


Objective: After a serious dip in the response rate for NPCA’s normally high-response March appeal, Avalon sought a way to cost-effectively improve response rate, revenue, and average gift.


Whole Package with clipStrategy and Audience: In an effort to create an appeal to truly stand out in the mail, Avalon designed a mini-proposal, which included a personalized cover letter from NPCA’s president, a personalized proposal, reply memo, and RAE (held together with a paper clip for a hand-assembled feel), all inside a 9×12 UPS Mail Innovations carrier. Our overhauled messaging focused on NPCA’s critical and timely Land and Water Conservation Fund. In describing the Fund’s purpose, we highlighted NPCA’s mission of protecting our national parks by improving the health of the landscapes and waterscapes in which they are located – making a persuasive case for giving. We mailed the mini-proposal package to general members ($15-999.99) who had given in the past 18 months.


Results: The Land and Water Conservation Fund theme, as well as the highly personalized packaging clearly resonated with NPCA’s members. The 6.31% response rate was 87% higher than the 3.38% response rate for the appeal mailed at this time in 2011. The increase in average gift was equally astounding at $71.57 in 2012, versus $55.08 in 2011 – a 30% increase! This resulted in a 36% higher net per donor than in 2011, and the highest gross per thousand for a direct mail appeal for both 2011 and 2012.

NPCA Carrier cropped