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Secrets of a successful direct mail campaign – part 1

Melanie May | 18 October 2022 | News

Marie Curie envelope cover

A piece of direct mail has the potential to be read and read again, to be kept, interacted with and shared – and to raise vital income. But what does success look like?

Here, in part 1, fundraisers from 3 charities – St Barnabas Hospice, Woodland Trust, and Marie Curie – showcase a successful piece of direct mail that they’ve run, taking us through the reason behind it, the approach, and how it did.

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St Barnabas Hospice

Holly Eyre, Fundraising Development Manager

We were preparing to launch an in-memory ironwork appeal which included a display. The display was going to be in a location we hadn’t used before, and the ironwork sculpture itself was also a new design we hadn’t used before. We had very little imagery other than the photos of the prototype ironwork.

We approached a local artist to ask if he was able to paint us an interpretation of what the display would look like. The end result was more than we could have ever hoped for. He kindly painted a large canvas which was simply beautiful. We were able to scan this painting at our local printers and use it within our mailing. It really set the theme for the whole campaign and pulled all materials together in a tasteful and eye-catching way.

Feedback from those receiving the mailing was overwhelming; we received so many comments about how beautiful it was, how it captured the emotion of the appeal and how much it intrigued when landing on doorsteps.

Our supporters really loved how the painting was used on the mailing. They asked if they could purchase the painting and the ironwork! With the artist’s permission, we got some miniature copies produced of the painting and sold these at the display and online. This generated just shy of £1000 in extra income. The campaign was a great success overall and one of our favourites at St Barnabas Hospice.


Woodland Trust

Emma Forbes, Lead Campaigns Manager

This is our summer 2020 insert. Our best performing insert in some time. Based on our banker pack, it had been performing well up until we were forced to pull all activity in spring 2020 when Covid first hit and we were unsure of its implications for us at Woodland Trust. For summer 2020 we amended the text to highlight how important woods and outdoor spaces were for us all over this period.

‘I’m sure you’ll agree that the pandemic has really brought home how vital fresh air, green space, parks and woodland are for our physical health and mental wellbeing. But woods aren’t just lovely places for a relaxing walk among nature, and trees give us so much more than colour and beauty. Both trees and woods are essential for the future of our planet.’

We didn’t want to make too much of it and been seen as profiteering from the pandemic, but at the same time we wanted to acknowledge what was impacting us all.

All media indications suggested charity giving would be down over the period, but we didn’t want to lose the momentum we had been building over the previous years by not putting anything out over this time.

We forecast 508 memberships from this activity, which we thought was incredibly optimistic, but we achieved 666 memberships – 158 over target. We also saw a cost per member of £196 and an ROI of 0.53.

To achieve this at such an uncertain time was a real success and gave us the boost we needed to relaunch our campaign online and into autumn where we saw similar high performance.


Marie Curie

Katie Rice

Katie Rice, Direct Giving Fundraiser

Marie Curie’s Nurses Appeal was direct mailed in May this year to 140,000 warm supporters throughout the UK, introducing them to various Marie Curie Nurses and Healthcare Assistants from across the charity.

Touching upon key elements of their role within the nursing team, each nurse shared memorable moments from their experience of caring for terminally ill people, and their loved ones.

The direct mail pack included a collectable coaster, with an illustrated image of Sheona, Joby and Victoria, who all shared their stories in the mailing. The pinstripe design from the Marie Curie Nurse uniform was used and it’s hoped that the pack will have its own recognisable identity going forwards.

Included was a tick box on the donation form to allow responders to indicate whether they would benefit from a larger font version of the charity’s letters. This information will be used to provide a more accessible version of the direct mail pack for that audience going forwards. A free text area was also added to the donation form to allow supporters to send messages of thanks back to the nurses. The team was also delighted to receive lots of lovely messages from supporters, which were shared with nurses.

Marie Curie’s Direct Giving team aims to build upon this each year, bringing supporters closer to the nurses they support.

The Nurses Appeal exceeded targets across the board, raising more than £390,000 and beating net income by 36%.

The Nurses Appeal told the story of multiple Marie Curie Nurses and Healthcare Assistants, touching on memorable moments about their roles and the people they support. The pack emphasised the importance of our supporters as an integral part of the Marie Curie family and I believe that allowing supporters to feel connected to the nursing staff makes a big difference to this. I thought the inclusion of an illustrated coaster was a particularly lovely touch and really brought the pack together.

For more great direct mail examples, read part 2

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