WWTT? You Can Attend a Virtual Dog Adoption Interview, Thanks to Pedigree

If you’re looking for a furry best friend, stay at home orders don’t have to keep you from finding them, thanks to Pedigree. The brand, best known for its dog food and care products, has a new campaign helping animal shelters provide virtual dog adoption interview possibilities via Zoom.

Have you noticed when you’re on a video chat with just about anyone nowadays, people get excited if your pet(s) decide to participate as well? The stress of the pandemic is taking such a toll on people that seeing an animal is a highlight to their day, especially if they don’t have any pets of their own. But if you’re looking for a furry best friend, stay at home orders don’t have to keep you from finding them, thanks to Pedigree. The brand, best known for its dog food and care products, has a new campaign helping animal shelters provide virtual dog adoption interview possibilities via Zoom.

The campaign, known as “Dogs on Zoom” is featured on the site MeetYourNewDog.com (a landing page on Pedigree’s site). The campaign kicked off on May 13, featuring the Nashville Humane Association (Pedigree has a replay of this Zoom event available to watch on YouTube, so if you need a little extra cuteness I highly recommend watching for a bit.).

Potential adopters can sign into the event via Zoom, ask the presenter questions about the featured dogs, and receive additional information about adopting — all without ever leaving their homes.

As of May 14, there are dog adoption interview Zoom meetings scheduled for May 14, 15, and 18 with different shelters, and the possibility for even more shelters to sign on to the project to help dogs find their forever homes.

"Dogs on Zoom" campaign hosts dog adoption interview events via ZoomAccording to MediaPost, the Nashville Humane Association was selected for the first few events, since it is the hometown shelter for Pedigree. And while the MeetYourNewDog.com site lets potential adopters know that the brand is covering adoption fees, MediaPost also shared that Pedigree is covering the Zoom fees for shelters.

This makes the decision for shelters to apply to participate in these dog adoption interview Zoom events easy, because the barrier to entry is fairly low, and there will still be adoption fees collected (instead of a standard practice of waiving fees in order to entice more adopters). Because these fees go directly into the care of animals and running of the organizations, anytime a shelter can keep them in place is important to the bottom line … also known as the bottom of the kibble bag (excuse the cheesy joke — I used to volunteer at an animal shelter).

Pedigree worked with BBDO NY on the campaign, and I have to say that the “Dogs on Zoom” Shelter Toolkit — available on the site — is an excellent example of educational content creation to provide all parties with the necessary tools for a successful outcome. The toolkit walks shelters through the entire practice of hosting the virtual adoption event, from how to use Zoom to how to best keep the dogs and audience engaged.

Not only is this campaign doing something great for shelters and supporting the pups it’s helping to find homes, but it’s also helping a lot of humans. Not everyone is sheltering in place with families, significant others, or room mates. There are a lot of people living alone during this pandemic, and feeling very isolated.

While being able to get on a Zoom call to enjoy a virtual meet up with friends is nice, having a pet to share space with helps a lot people deal with loneliness and other mental health issues that could be exacerbated during these extremely challenging times.

It’s uplifting to see, week after week, the creative minds behind myriad brands and agencies think of how to help. Not every brand can switch over to making PPE or necessarily do something monumental to support healthcare workers.

But it’s still meaningful when a brand thinks about what other sources of good it can provide. And sure … the more dogs adopted can mean more Pedigree brand dog food sold … but for now, I’m going to take solace in the idea that Pedigree is helping shelter dogs find their forever homes and people find their newest four-legged friends.

But marketers, that’s just what I think … tell me what you think about this campaign in the comments below!

WWTT? So Many COVID-19 Emails … But Are There Any ‘Good’ Ones?

Right now, the world feels like a very scary, uncertain place, as we all make adjustments to our daily lives during this pandemic. But there is also a lot of room for hope and positivity. For today’s “What Were They Thinking?” post, I want to look at some COVID-19 emails I’ve received from brands and nonprofits to my personal email account, showcasing a couple that I think did an excellent job at standing out in my inbox and offering value.

Right now, the world feels like a very scary, uncertain place, as we all make adjustments to our daily lives during this pandemic. And while each day often seems weirder or scarier than the one before it, there is also a lot of room for hope and positivity. For today’s “What Were They Thinking?” post, I want to look at some COVID-19 emails I’ve received from brands and nonprofits to my personal email account, showcasing a couple that I think did an excellent job at standing out in my inbox and offering value.

Because if you’re not offering up value right now (and no, I don’t mean a sweet sale on a pair of shoes), then maybe think twice about what campaigns you’re running, especially if they include COVID-19 messaging.

Also, a little tip I’d like to offer: Consider removing inactives from your list BEFORE you message your entire list. I don’t need to know that you’re keeping your establishment clean and being decent to your employees if we interacted maybe once, back in 2014. If you can wash your hands, you also can take some time for list hygiene.

So much like an episode of MTV Cribs, step into my inbox with me, and let’s look at some examples of COVID-19 emails done right:

COVID-19 email message from Lush I received this email from Lush on March 14, and the headline reads: “Be safe, get clean.”

Already I’m thankful the subject line isn’t the usual canned “[Company name] and COVID-19 update.” Yes, in some cases we do need an update from a particular company we do business with — for example, when my hair salon emailed me how they were were taking care of their staff and the salon, how this would affect services, hours, etc, I definitely read that email. My salon is a very personal marketer to me … some others who email me, however, are not.

Back to Lush. So the subject line is great and has me curious enough to open. The main message is simple: “Wash your hands for free at Lush.” The rest of the short email says that their stores are still open in North America, come on in and wash your hands for free with no expectation of purchase.

Now yes, this can be looked at as a way to increase foot traffic, but they are offering a service that is very relevant right now (How many of us have replaced our usual goodbyes with “Wash your hands!”?) Sure, some people might make a purchase, but the focus of this email is about a beneficial service Lush wants to provide the community, wherever one of their brick and mortar stores reside.

Unfortunately, the next day I received a second email from Lush alerting me to North America store closures from March 16-29, but even that didn’t feel like a boilerplate email. You can check it out here.

The bottom line about Lush is that their emails were compassionate, offered value to their customs, and were on-brand.

Now, let’s look at a nonprofit I support:


The Western New York Land Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in the Western New York (WNY) region of the Empire State. It’s a second home to me, due to the fact I went to college there and I have friends and family in the area.

While the WNYLC’s subject line is a bit closer to some of the boilerplate ones I’ve seen out there on other COVID-19 emails, what works so well is the message. It starts with a note from their Executive Director, leading off with a cancellation of a specific hike for the safety of others, as well as information about how future events will either be conducted via phone or video, or rescheduled. All important info, especially if you’re a donor who actively participates with this organization.

But what I appreciate the most is how this email ties into part of the land conservancy’s mission — to experience the land. The call to action to go outside and take it in during these uncertain times is what a lot of people need to hear: to take a break, step away from the constant news cycle or ding of email, and go breathe some fresh air. The specific mention of the Stella Niagara Preserve (land the WNYLC has protected) is fitting, and the P.S. includes a reminder that social distancing is great for the outdoors, so send photos of your favorite moments.

This call for photo submissions isn’t only user generated content, but when the WNYLC posts these images, their follows can enjoy them and feel a little less distant. Something we all need.

As marketers, before all of “this,” our jobs were to educate prospects and customers about our services and products, and to often help people be their best selves, whether professionally, personally, or both. Our creative and analytical minds were put to work building campaigns and helping support sales teams. And yes, those are all still our jobs right now.

But I think we have some new ones. We need to be there to help lift up our customers and donors (when appropriate and relevant, don’t just barge in out of nowhere). We need to make sure we share good, accurate information, no matter what the topic is. And we need to be positive … because I think keeping a positive attitude through the darkness is the only way through this. And we’re gonna get through.

Marketers, what do you think? Tell me about some thoughtful, well-executed COVID-19 emails you’ve seen in your inboxes (and if you’ve seen some cruddy ones, tell me about it on Twitter, over at @sass_marketing). And take care of yourselves, each and every one of you (Gary, stop touching your face.).

How to Create Sticky Direct Mail

By sticky, I mean direct mail that really resonates or makes an impression on your prospects and customers. When this happens, they are more likely to respond to your offer. After your first hurdle of grabbing attention so that your mail piece does not end up in the trash, your next hurdle is drawing them into your messaging. This is where the sticky part takes place.

So, what do I mean by “sticky” and why should your direct mail be sticky? By sticky, I mean direct mail that really resonates or makes an impression on your prospects and customers. When this happens, they are more likely to respond to your offer. After your first hurdle of grabbing attention so that your mail piece does not end up in the trash, your next hurdle is drawing them into your messaging. This is where the sticky part takes place.

Here are three ways to make your messaging sticky:

1. Testimonials

People trust the opinions of others more than they trust companies. When you add testimonials to your direct mail you make your product or service more trustworthy, and people are curious about what others say so they will take the time to read them. The testimonials provide you with an unbiased opinion of your products or services; this is powerful for people who are unsure if they should buy from you.

2. Stories

People enjoy stories. When you create direct mail messaging with a story concept, you draw in the reader. In order to keep them interested, you need to have a good story. Build up curiosity so they want to know what will happen. Of course your story needs to fit in with your brand and product or service — just adding any old story is not going to help you. Everything in the direct mail piece needs to tie together to be effective.

3. Emotional

Emotion is a powerful sticky point. When nonprofits tug at heart strings to get donations, it works! Use emotion to draw people in. Even for-profits can do this. Think of ways that your product or service can create an emotional appeal. You don’t have to focus on just sad emotions — try out each one to see what will work best for you by testing ideas with a focus group of clients or people outside of your organization.

No matter what the format of your direct mail piece is, such as a letter, postcard or self-mailer, the stickiness of your messaging matters. On postcards, you will have to be very concise while still drawing them in. Letters give you plenty of space for messaging — keep in mind that people like to read the P.S. lines, so have a great sticky message here. Images can also help your direct mail be sticky. When you are able to convey your message through powerful images, it creates a great way to draw people in. Make sure that you are not using language to disengage people. Stay away from clichés, boasting and arrogant messaging. No one wants to read that. Open, honest language is the best.

Consider the messaging you have used on past direct mail pieces. What could you do with that messaging to make it even better? Do you find any of it to be boring? One thing you can’t do is have boring messaging in your direct mail. That is a sure way to get it thrown into the trash. If you know you have used good messaging in the past, use it again — but not word for word. Change it up to keep it fresh. If you use testimonials, don’t always use the same ones — switch them out. Interest in your direct mail pieces over time tapers off, so freshen up not only your look, but your messaging too.

Create your sticky now to increase your 2017 results. When you send mail to the right people, create an impression and provide a good offer: You will get results.

How Events Hurt Major Gifts — And What to Do About It

I was in a meeting with the fundraising staff of a very prominent and successful nonprofit, and the leader of the major gifts program told the familiar story of how he and his staff had been pulled away from their major gift work to organize an event that “meant a lot to the board.”

eventIt happened again.

I was in a meeting with the fundraising staff of a very prominent and successful nonprofit, and the leader of the major gifts program told the familiar story of how he and his staff had been pulled away from their major gift work to organize an event that “meant a lot to the board.”

I was stunned by what I was hearing, because the major gift staff already had its hands full with substantial increases in goals for the fiscal year, and now it was being recruited to spend a good deal of time and money organizing a feel-good event that, quite frankly, had nothing to do with fundraising.

It was true that the event would net $50,000. But when I heard that number, I asked if staff time had been calculated into the cost. No, it hadn’t. And when we did the math, that $50,000 net disappeared in a nanosecond.

What is it about nonprofit boards, leaders and staff who so easily catch events fever and lose their way on thinking objectively about this topic?

Yes, a well-organized event, with the right content, can raise the profile of a nonprofit. But then, why not have the public relations or communications department handle it? Why pull the major gift folks away from relating to their good donors to do this work? I know. Because it’s the donors on the caseload that will be the core group who will make the event financially successful.

Hold on. Did you just hear what I said? The donors on the caseload will make the event financially successful. Hmm. So we are moving money from the major gift officer’s caseload to the event and increasing the expense to secure that money? Yep. Crazy. And, likely, the gift the major donor gives at the event will be far less than what she could have given if the major gift officer had managed the giving outside of the event.

But these major donors will bring their friends, and we can make them our friends, and everything will be grand. It’s true. I have seen this happen. But not very frequently. Here’s why. The friend has come at the invitation of the major donor, and two things are working against them getting further involved:

• The friend is simply servicing an obligation. They have no intent to get involved. It is a nice social time out with a good friend and that’s that. Or they are trading favors. “You came to my gig last month. I go to yours now.” And while you could turn this around with a compelling program, the fact is …

• There is no compelling program presented. This has always amazed me. We get all of these wonderful people together. And they have a ton of capacity to give. But all we offer, besides a nice meal, is some quick facts about who we are, a testimonial, an award to a board member or key volunteer and other nicey-nicey things. And everyone goes home feeling good.

If the leaders in your organization have events fever — in other words, hardly any argument or reasoning will dissuade them organizing an event — then make the best of it by doing the following:

1. See if you can get some other department to do the heavy lifting. Get PR, communications, the volunteer coordinator, the assistant to the executive director — someone other than you — to organize it. In other words, protect your major gift time as best you can. Time is all you have. And there is very little of it to put toward relating to your caseload donors. So have a mindset of delegating as much as you can.

2. Sell tickets to cover costs. This isn’t a new idea, and it’s regularly done. I only mention this to set up the next point. Your objective is to break even or have a positive net to cover the labor involved.

3. Create a compelling program that presents an “I can’t avoid supporting it” project. Yes, you heard correctly. I am suggesting selling tickets and asking for gifts at the event. And the ticket-selling process should clearly outline what you are doing. “I am selling tickets to cover costs because I want you to come with your friends and hear about this exciting must-do project.” Obviously, you have to create something that the donor and their friends and other prospects want to attend.

Think about this like you do when you go out with friends to dinner and split the check. That’s all that is going on. The donors are covering the cost to attend a presentation. The whole event must then be carefully choreographed, from start to finish, so that the donors and their friends are completely engulfed in the drama and journeys of the people who will be helped when they get involved. When I say start to finish, I mean things like:

  • The look of the ticket and program.
  • Signage at the venue.
  • Material on the tables or, if outside, those materials as well.
  • What the greeters say to people coming in.
  • The sequencing, cadence and messaging of the program — every single element is discussed and programmed. Nothing is left to chance.
  • The testimonials and comments of people invited to speak.
  • The pictures, videos, music and any other program elements.
  • Every single element is strategic — even when and how a meal is served. Everything.
  • The price tag for the project needs to be large enough to accommodate the giving goals you have set for every donor on your caseload and their friends and other non-donors who may be present. You do not want to have a $100,000 project when the sum of all the goals of the donors present is $750,000. Doesn’t make sense.

Here’s the thing. Nothing is left to chance. Everything is intentional. And all of it draws you to this amazing thing “we must all do!” That is what I mean by compelling. You are drawn in and compelled to act. That is how engaging the program/project is.

4. Seed the event and the giving at the event with up-front giving by selected donors. Go to selected caseload donors and ask them to come to the event and make a commitment to the project. You might ask for a matching gift that can be unveiled at the event. It could really be quite dramatic. Picture this. The project is $850,000 and one donor, in advance, has pledged a $300,000 matching gift.

At a strategic moment at the event, the executive director calls on the donor to speak. She says something like, “When I heard about this project, I just had to get involved. Think of the difference we all could make if, tonight, we funded the whole thing! It would be so exciting. Look at all the lives that would be forever changed. That is why I am putting up a $300,000 challenge grant. Whatever you give tonight, up to $300,000, I will match. Come on, let’s get this done!” Wow, that would be something.

***

So, you get what I am saying about the same old, same old event vs. a version of what I am describing above. This is a real fundraising event. Not the faux event that so many nonprofits spend so much time on. If you are going to do an event, do it right. Make it cause-oriented vs. just a happy time.

The cause is why the donors are involved — they want to make a difference in someone’s life. Program your event toward that reality. It will make a tremendous difference in the financial outcome and how the donors feel about your organization.

Someone Wants to Use Google AdWords as a Weapon

There’s a polarizing website that’s been a big player in the political arena. And there’s a viral campaign that’s trying to use Google AdWords to hurt it.

I’m surprised. I’m shocked. I’m intrigued. And what’s even crazier is, even though I have personal feelings on the issue, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this new activism strategy.

Every day, I and my agency, Eleventy, use Google AdWords to help connect brands and people we believe might be interested. And, because the majority of my day is spent specifically working on nonprofit marketing and fundraising, I am especially appreciative to all that Google has made possible to charities.

So, imagine my surprise when I heard that someone figured out how to weaponize the AdWords network. Here’s the scoop, and the real names have been changed to protect the — well, I’m just not going to provide names.

There is a viral campaign going around right now born from the discomfort people have with a certain online news site. This website seems to polarize many people in the U.S. and has been a big player in the recent political arena. The campaign is trying to use the very basic feedback elements of AdWords to hurt the website.

I’ll keep this short, because this blog is not about how to do this. This new level of what is being called “simple activism” is about having people go to this website where brands have placed their ads. Within the ad feedback loop, which can be accessed by anyone who sees an ad, there is a simple way to provide feedback on the actual website (vs. the ad).

And, because Google is great at being in touch with consumer feedback, it provides various options for why someone might have a problem with a website. Here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge):

Google AdWords Weaponized

Now, while the average consumer would typically not use this, the new viral approach is requesting that people do this on purpose and specifically leave feedback that the website promotes racial intolerance and advocates against individuals or groups of people.

The goal is to create enough movement in this area that the website is removed from the AdWords network. And, of course, if a brand is removed from the network, it will also lose advertising revenue.

Even though I know everyone reading this would have an opinion on one side or the other of this social issue, the purpose of this blog is not to weigh in on this activism campaign.

But, as a marketer who leverages the AdWords network every day, this has me very nervous. It will be interesting to see how Google reacts, because this could so quickly create a slippery slope where consumers attempt to censor media. No matter how you lean politically or personally, I’m just not sure this is the way to go about it handling an issue against a website.

If Google were to react to this in the way the activists are pushing, we could quickly see how digital advertising could be used as a weapon against brands directly.

Have an opinion on this? Share it with me in the comments. I’d love to hear if my knee-jerk reaction is common or not.

Direct Mail for Nonprofit Fundraising

One of the most common industries to use direct mail is the nonprofit sector. With the economic hard times many nonprofits have more people to serve and are getting less in donated funds. This creates a drastic gap between needs and financial ability to provide them. In many cases, this gap is driving nonprofits to create more fundraising campaigns as well as finding more potential donors to send to.

One of the most common industries to use direct mail is the nonprofit sector. With the economic hard times, many nonprofits have more people to serve and are getting less in donated funds. This creates a drastic gap between needs and financial ability to provide them. In many cases, this gap is driving nonprofits to create more fundraising campaigns as well as finding more potential donors to send to. So let’s see how direct mail can drive your response to increase your donations. Direct mail is more costly than sending out an email due to printing, mailing and postage costs, but when you can increase your ROI to more than cover that cost, it can be well worth it.

In direct mail your list is one of the most important parts. Obviously, the best list is your list of current donors. The USPS requires you to comply with their Move Update regulations by updating your lists every 95 days. There are several important list hygiene tools available to help keep your data clean and accurate.

  • Don’t forget to occasionally solicit lapsed donors. Consider telemarketing to those audiences in addition to mail.
  • Keep your donor mailing lists up to date. Obsolete data not only costs you money spent on undeliverable or misdirected mail, but can cause lost donations and can impact donor goodwill.
  • Studies have found that on average, up to 20 percent of records within a typical house file are undeliverable. By keeping your data current, you will save on printing, mailing and postage costs.
  • National Change of Address (NCOA) for new addresses of people who have moved.
  • Dedupe, so that you are not sending multiple pieces to the same address.
  • Deceased recipient purging, removing anyone who has been reported as recently deceased, can be a great asset as your list of donors are aging.

Finding good lists of prospective donors can be hard. Here are a few ideas you can try.

  1. Trade lists other nonprofits in your area. Make sure to code the lists when you send them out so that you know who responded from what list.
  2. You can find targeted prospect lists by looking for individuals who are sympathetic to your mission and have the capacity to give. By utilizing available list targeting tools it is possible to find prospects that most closely resemble your best donors.
  3. You can customize a list to your specific cause and overlay demographic and psychographic intelligence onto your donor data.
  4. Another option is to profile you donor list. Sophisticated list profiling is now a reality. Through a powerful array of new market segmentation tools you can profile the unique characteristics of your best donors and identify and target new prospects most like them. The results can boost your direct response rate, increase your market penetration, and dramatically improve your fundraising ROI.

Something else that Nonprofits should take note of, if you are mailing raffle tickets: The United States Postal Service (USPS) is strictly enforcing regulations on mailing raffle tickets. If you plan to mail raffle tickets for a fundraiser, you must meet requirements or the USPS could legally refuse to accept your mail. While it is legal to include advertising for a raffle, including a raffle or lottery ticket in a mailing is strictly prohibited unless you follow USPS guidelines. To avoid potential problems, the USPS requires the ticket makes clear that no payment is required to enter a raffle. The following elements should appear on each ticket in a mailing:

  1. Use the wording “suggested donation” before the price of the ticket.
  2. Use the wording “no donation required to enter” or add a check box “Please enter my name in the drawing. I do not wish to make a donation at this time.”

An alternative is to not include a ticket in the mailing. It is legal to advertise a raffle by mail, but you should still use the phrase “suggested donation” if you list the price of a ticket on the advertisement.

Using direct mail for nonprofit fundraising is a great way to help increase your donations. If you are in need of other tips or tricks feel free to reach out and ask providers. They have a wealth of knowledge to help you.