Wednesday, March 7, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Do You Remember Life Magazine?

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, Life magazine was my favorite next to Boys’ Life. It was bigger than the other magazines of the day and it had tons of pictures. Long before National Geographic assumed the mantle of best photography, it was Life magazine’s photo journalists who were the world’s best. For a photo journalist to be featured in Life was the crowning achievement of their career.  

Today, Life is an anachronism. You can still find them but they have no subscription base. Their layout is still photo-based and their subject matter is only of interest to people our age or older. We know the brand even though we have long since stopped buying or reading it.

Most of my blog readership are fundraisers with significant direct mail fundraising programs. These programs pre-date you. In fact, most go back to the 1940’s or even earlier. I also know you have an archive of old mail packages.

Do this for me and for yourself; pull an old direct mail package from as far back as you can find. Then compare it to your mail packages today. No doubt it will have less color and the addressing mechanism might be a label . . . but when you compare it side-by-side to your current packages, you will see that the technical elements; the headline, copy layout, story elements, even the PS are still used today. The look has changed, but not the basic format, layout, and package components.

Now just take a hard look at your current mail packages. Remember the last time you saw a copy of  Life magazine in the grocery store? That is what someone under 40 sees when they see your direct mail package today. It is an anachronism.

Of course, many of your donor mail programs still return a profitable response. But are you studying the net contribution today compared to five years ago? Your margins are shrinking, which means you have to mail up to twice as many mailing packages to generate the same net contribution dollars as five years ago. But you can’t mail twice as many.

Don’t let your fundraising group become an anachronism. The digital-based internet fundraising world is different from what you are used to. But different isn’t bad . . . it’s just different.


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