11 Aug Saturation Mail
According to www.melissadata.com, the Town of Bolton, Connecticut has 1,998 residential addresses. The Bolton Land Trust has just fewer than 300 members. That’s a 15% penetration rate, or about 1 member for every 7 addresses. How do they do it?
Fundraiser’s Almanac: July
Fundraiser’s Almanac: August
- Take a Hike!
- Saturation Mail
- Membership Drives
- Join Yourself
It turns out that their secret is…..drum roll, please…..mailing to every household in Bolton several times each year.
The content of these mailings is brief local news and invitations to special events. A quick tour of their website yields a bit of something for everyone: Bogsucker Slog in March, Spring Bird Walk in May, Strawberries at Sunset in June, Yoga in August, and Walk of Thanksgiving in November.
Wait just a minute: They mail to everybody? Isn’t that expensive? Yup – and totally worth it. Did you catch the bit about one in seven households is a member?
OK, so “easy to say” in Bolton, Connecticut, “hard to do” in Cleveland (West Creek Conservancy), or Iowa (Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation), or Houston (Galveston Bay Foundation) – right?
So what can we learn from the Bolton experience that we can apply? Here’s my list:
- If we’re going to be relevant in our communities – heck, if we’re even going to be recognized! – we have to be visible. Offering the general public a series of inexpensive chances to get together, enjoy a hike, or a strawberry patch, or some good music, and connect all this fun with the land trust message is a healthy way of becoming visible.
- It’s not just one colorful, beautifully written, direct mail letter asking you to join the cause. It’s a single sheet of pink paper with big letters asking you to join the FUN, “Strawberries at Sunset: Come pick berries in the beautiful hillside strawberry fields of the Pesce Farm with music and a berry treat. We hope to see you on Monday!” – times five or six times each year – every year.
The generic term of this kind of communications is “saturation mail.” The essence of the idea is that the same piece is dropped in every mailbox. It is addressed to “Postal Patron” or “Current Resident.” And the cost is about 12 cents each.
The only catch is that you have to mail it to everyone in a carrier route – usually about 400-800 addresses.
There are many inexpensive applications for saturation mail: postcards, newsprint fliers, even small printed invitations. You could advertise special events, general land trust information, the opening of a new preserve area, or just about anything else where visibility in the community might be helpful.
Where we get hung up is generally in the scope of such an effort. But consider this: you do not need to saturate your entire service area at the same time. You could focus on a single carrier route, or the set of routes that make up a single zip code. You could map out the carrier routes around a new project, or along a particular waterway. You could map out how many donors you already have in each carrier route and mail to the routes that already have the most (like-minded people often live near each other).
For right now, think about whether you have an event this fall that might benefit from this kind of visibility in the immediate area. You still have time to design a simple piece, and if you design it in-house, your production and mailing costs combined will be less than 25 cents/piece.
I would offer just one caution: Do not expect too much from a single saturation mailing. To be visible in the long run, sustained effort will be necessary. Consider mailing exactly the same piece three times within two years to the same carrier routes before evaluating the effort. Are you getting more web traffic, more people or families coming out to your events, or more people responding to your direct mail letters? If so, carry on. If not, pull out and saturate another area.
Or, if you can, mail the same set of 4-6 pieces every year to everyone in your area – like Bolton does.
And enjoy the strawberries.
See how David can help you with your membership fundraising campaign here.
Photo courtesy of Walt Kaesler.