Foundation Magazine spoke with Brea Blight, Development Officer, Annual Giving and Communications for the Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health. This year’s campaign was examined and explored. Here’s the conversation.

Is this campaign part of your annual fundraising strategy?

Yes, like the majority of charitable organizations our big direct mail piece we do every year is our holiday direct mail appeal. The last couple of years, this campaign has also been supported by an email campaign to our email house list, paid social and digital ads, as well as organic social ads.

How long has this particular mailing piece been part of the program?

The Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health was established in 2009, and began mailing a holiday appeal in 2015.

Who developed this particular mailing package? What it in house, or an agency / consultant, and if so whom?

Typically, this is a piece that is created internally by the Development Officer of Annual Giving & Communications, but this year we collaborated with an outside agency who has assisted us the last two years with our yearly awareness campaign that launches in October, Blakely Fundraising.

Do you have versions of this mailer which are used for other specific times of the year, other holidays etc? If so, please describe.

We don’t have other versions of this exact piece. We did deploy e-mail versions through December to accompany the mailer. Our holiday mailer is a stand-alone piece. We do other direct mail initiatives throughout the year, but they will tell a different patient story, or focus on a program or research initiative at Ontario Shores, or a particular fundraising goal.

Why is direct mail used as the fundraising channel for this effort?

In the past direct mail was one of the only ways to send an appeal!

And, although it is obvious direct mail is not used as frequently due to cost and the expansion of digital, a holiday direct mail appeal is still a piece that many people expect to receive. It is something that you can not ignore! And, most of our holiday donations still come in from mail–72 percent of our holiday donations came in by donors mailing back the BRE with a cheque or their credit card info.

I think using direct mail for this appeal as an asset in a cross-marketing strategy that includes email, digital and social media contributes to the overall success of the campaign.

Who is the target donor and where is this campaign mailed, or how is it distributed?

This year we sent this direct mailer to our in-house database and we also purchased a householder list from Canada Post based on our Canada Post audience profile we had conducted a couple years ago.

Can you share the mailing numbers, geography, target demographic, etc? Do you rely on a personalized version of this letter being mailed to individuals directly?

We mailed to just over 25,000 people. Approximately 1,500 were from our house list that is comprised of people from across Ontario, with the majority being in Durham Region. We also purchased 24,000 addresses from the Canada Post Householder list across the GTA. Householder lists are not personalized but were based on our Canada Post Donor Profile report.

Do you use testing versions of the same mailer which have a different offer, different donation levels, etc, for the purpose of determining future mailings?

Yes, we do segment our house list where we do variable messaging and offer different donation levels based on their donor profile and giving history.

How would you describe the results of this type of campaign?

Over the last couple years our holiday giving campaign revenue has increased by almost 50 percent as we have gotten more familiar with our donor database and as our awareness in the community has increased.

Working with an outside agency on strategy and creative has definitely allowed us expand on our direct messaging and segmenting and also implement the cross-channel marketing I mentioned above.

What percentage of recipients use the QR code to scan and watch the video, and how to you follow up with those individuals who take that step? Do they receive a special or unique offer, for example?

I have not yet received the QR code results from this campaign, but we did not attribute any special offer to this piece. The QR code directed them to the video that was uploaded to our YouTube account.

For anyone that is a first time donor and provides their email address, they do receive a Welcome email from our CEO within the first week of making a donation. And after that the new donor fall into our retention communication plan.

Do you feel that direct mail like this has a specific advantage over other channels, and what percentage of your marketing-fundraising budget goes into direct mail?

Definitely, I think direct mail still targets an audience who appreciates communicating (whether personal, business or through donating) via the mail as opposed to other non-traditional means.

Also, people are not receiving as much mail as they used to, so it can tend to stand out now and maybe cause a bit of excitement in the recipient!

Direct mail takes up about 55 percent of our fundraising budget.

What else would you like to say about the campaign and about Ontario Shores’ direct mail fundraising efforts and about the organization’s plans for future campaigns. Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to add?

We are a fairly small team of five people wearing many hats, and as a foundation we are still in the growing stages. We’re constantly testing and exploring new strategies and because of that and the efforts of our energetic and dynamic team, we are definitely beginning to evolve and connect with our donors as never before!



Organization Name: Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health

Contact: Brea Blight, Development Officer Annual Giving & Communications

Name of Campaign: Holiday Giving Direct Mail Appeal

Timing: Mailed on November 19, 2022 – Match offer until December 31, 2021



Key Credits

In House

Strategy|Tactics: Brea Blight, Development Officer Annual Giving Communications

Content|Copy: Brea Blight, Development Officer Annual Giving Communications and Shannon Stuart, CEO

Design: Brea Blight, Development Officer Annual Giving Communications

Data: Brea Blight, Development Officer Annual Giving Communications and entire Foundation team who reviewed and contributed



Strategy|Tactics: Blakely Fundraising

Content|Copy: Blakely Fundraising

Design: Blakely Fundraising

Production: Blakely Fundraising

Data: Blakely Fundraising

Other: Blakely Fundraising – updating of social media ad to reflect holiday giving message

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