With the weather turning cold and the new year fast approaching, I was recently gifted with a gorgeous, red envelope in my mailbox. Addressed to me from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, I unfolded its contents and began reading what looked like a newspaper clipping about the Mission preparing meals for homeless families on Thanksgiving.
As I read through the article, I could feel my attention slipping. My eyes went from reading every word to skimming the highlighted sections. “Hmm, just another charity asking for help,” I thought to myself. I flipped the paper over as I was about to throw it away and all of a sudden my interest was renewed!
On the back page was a visually compelling pie chart with a breakdown of where the Mission serves its meals. Below the chart were headshots of real people the Mission had rescued with testimony about their experiences. The page also contained some really meaningful statistics about the reach of the Mission.
Now I was thinking, “Wow, this is a really great organization! They do a lot of practical good for real people. I should help them!” Then I went to get my wallet.
The Shifting Sands of Media
As a Digital Content Strategist here at Masterworks and a member of Generation Y, I spend about 99.9% of my time on the Internet (or at least, that’s the way it feels). I haven’t read a print newspaper in almost five years because they seem dull to me compared to interactive media. They only publish once a day and they’re not even in color!
I am not alone in my aversion to newsprint. Survey results from the Pew Research Center indicated that in 2013 only 20% of people ages 18-34 have read a daily newspaper in the last day (down from 42% in 1990).
So then what was it about this particular mailer that so effectively captured my attention?
Stranded on a Desert Island
After some reflection, I realized I had stumbled across a perfect example of Marshall McLuhan’s theory that “the medium is the message.” I suspect what attracted me so much more to the back page of that mailer was the variety of formats used to display the content. There were charts, photos, quotes, numbers, bullets, lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
All the key information had been broken down into manageable little chunks that I could run my eyes over quickly, flitting from one graphic to another — still receiving the message without having to actually read every word. This is similar to the way people have been shown to read content on the web. And since I spend so much time looking at websites in the course of my work, I am most used to viewing content this way.
However, Generation Y is not the only generation who spends time online. While Pew surveys confirm that 97% of people ages 18-29 use the Internet daily, they also reveal that a surprising 57% of people age 65 and older do as well.
When asked the question, “If you were stranded on a desert island and had to choose one and only one communication channel, what channel would you choose?” all generations answered, “the Internet.”
So what impact does this have on fundraising?
An Oasis vs. a Mirage
At Masterworks, we believe that traditional marketing methods like direct mail won’t be disappearing anytime soon. They clearly wouldn’t have stuck around for this long if they weren’t wildly successful at raising funds.
However, with donors now splitting their limited attention spans across an increasingly crowded media landscape, it is more important than ever for non-profits to have consistent, professional messaging across a variety of channels — from print to broadcast to digital.
For example, you do not want to send out beautiful mailers that make potential donors imagine your organization as an oasis of hope:
Only to direct them back to a website that turns that oasis into a mirage:
*Photos from Oyster.com.
How Masterworks Can Help
As a full-service agency, Masterworks is uniquely positioned to help nonprofits create fully integrated campaigns that reach out to donors on their computer screens, radios, televisions, tablets, mobile phones as well as as in their mailboxes. We do more than just tell stories — we work to make every interaction with an organization a positive one that will make donors truly feel the joy of giving.
Let us help you build great experiences for your donors by contacting us today!