Intro/Outro: Welcome to the Fit Fundraising podcast, where we bring you game changing fundraising topics direct from our meetings with major donors and nonprofits nationwide. While most consultants are busy giving advice, Fit Fundraising stays on the front lines with nonprofits and major donors. This podcast is a glimpse into our world of work with nonprofits as we get on the field with them and successfully model fundraising. Get ready to get fit with the hottest show in fun development: Fit Fundraising.
Roy Jones: Hey, well, hello today you are listening to the Fit Fundraising broadcast, we’re going to have some fun. I have invited a special guest here and this person has been my mentor, my friend for more years than either of us care to remember. But she literally is a living legend in the direct mail industry. She knows direct response fundraising better than anybody I know. So today I want everybody to meet Janet Copland. She had a couple different agencies. She had an agency, Copeland O’Neill, and then she formed her own company just a few years ago, Donor Strategies. Janet works and lives out of the Fort Lauderdale area in South Florida.
She was the direct mail fundraiser of the year package of the year a couple times, more than once. And she’s just done some amazing things, some of her clients include people like Catholic Relief Services, Covenant House, ASPCA, Plan USA, Habitat for Humanity, the North Shore Animal League, U. S. Olympic Committee. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of people that Janet has worked with. Most recently, the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, 4Kids, Hope Outreach Center, Habitat for Humanity. She’s doing some great things and really just plugged in. And Fit Fundraising is just so excited to have her as part of our team. With that, Janet, welcome.
Janet Copland: Thank you, Roy. I am so honored to be with you, and thank you for the over the top introduction, I expected nothing less. But as always, we’re going to have a good time. We’ve had a good time for the 30 years I’ve known you, and doing what we love best, I think, fundraising.
Roy Jones: That’s right. And it still seems like yesterday, when you were the chief development officer at Food for the Poor, and I actually think I had hair there during that time period but I started to say the big bald guy, but I don’t think I was bald at the time. But showed up at your door. Take a minute and tell the story of how we first met, because I still don’t believe it happened.
Janet Copland: Neither do I I still got a little cringy when I think about it, but the founder of food for the poor unfortunately passed a few months ago and we miss him, but he ran a tight ship and he knew where everyone was and who was in the office and who was visiting who and that was great. Now Roy had called me about 16 times. Because he was working for a printer and a fulfillment house at that point.
Roy Jones: USA Direct.
Janet Copland: USA Direct, exactly. And frankly, I had a lot of business to give at that point. We were mailing like close to a million pieces a month. So, I was pretty popular in those days. So, Roy was in Florida and he said, She’s gotta leave the building sometime. So he can’t out in the lobby and the receptionist called me and said there’s this guy in the lobby and he won’t leave and he says you’re coming out, So I of course that pushed the right button. I go running out there, and brought you back to my office, and that my future partner, Sean O’Neill, was what we were working together at that point. I said, so I dumped you on Sean. And by the end of that day, I think we were fast friends, we were doing business, we had given you an order. And the rest is history.
Roy Jones: It really is. I think one of the first things I said, and I truly believe this, that building relationships, whether it is fund development, whether it is direct response marketing, whether it is major gift fundraising, it is all about relationships. And I remember one of the first things I said to you, and we have lived it. Our relationship is not about the money.
Janet Copland: Right?
Roy Jones: I don’t know if you remember that. I was thinking about that yesterday. Preparing for the training program. You and I are getting ready to go do next week. And it’s it’s really true people. You need to make that the case and building relationships. And we have certainly done that again. I appreciate you. I wanted to take this time today and just spend a few minutes and talk about, the direct response industry, now, what’s interesting is that it Fit Fundraising our specialty is major gift development, that’s kind of been the place where we do most of our work, but where major donors come from? Is not some secret black book that the big bald guy keeps. Major donors come from people’s donor files that were built through direct response. And so I want to take just a few minutes and throw some direct response questions at you. And, maybe we could talk about some of the control packages you’ve developed over the years and, how you find those donors that eventually turn into big donors, five figure, six figure donors, but. Talk to me. How has direct mail changed in the last 10 years?
Janet Copland: Well, I would say that it has changed, but not as much as one would think. I think that the good part about it is that it’s still the fundamentals, of the list and the offer are the most important and what has changed is the sort of the digital aspects that have now come into it. But what we’re finding is that when you combine email and direct mail, that’s the sweet spot. So, if you send out an email saying, watch your mailbox, you’re getting a very interesting letter from so and so and you’re going to hear about this project and then they get the letter and they actually look at it and then you follow it up.
So, the difference is almost the way people are responding. There’s slightly fewer checks now, and I’m one of them, and I am a baby boomer and of the donor age who has made that change of not writing checks, but I also won’t give to someone who just sends me an email. And that’s what we’re finding.
Roy Jones: Very interesting.
Janet Copland: Just get an email. That’s nice. But you don’t have me. I want to see something. I want to hold something. I want to look at a picture. I want to maybe put it aside and look at it later. When I’m scrolling through my inbox, that’s not the time that I’m choosing to make a donation.
So timing is everything, and state of mind is really important. So what I do is I see it, then I go to the website, and make a gift. Or I wait, oh, I didn’t do that, right? So that’s where you get the next email that follow up. Oh, did you forget about, and that’s where the money is.
Roy Jones: Wow. So let’s break that down. You’re talking about integrating social media, digital and old fashioned printed snail mail. They work together is what I hear you saying. You’re creating this campaign.
Janet Copland: Yes.
Roy Jones: The project is, you create a social media campaign, a punchy email to announce the letters coming, a hard hitting letter, and then a follow up email. So you’re touching them three, four or five times, to get them to do. And it’s interesting so you think. The old fashioned reply forms where people write a checkout and send it back in an envelope. That’s changing.
Janet Copland: It’s changing, but I’ll say it’s going to go on for still another good decade, I would say, because there is something about people who are in the older category. They feel important writing a check out, there’s something sacred about writing the check and signing their name and putting it in an envelope. It’s a trust between them and the nonprofit. It’s not a bill. It’s not just doing something, Oh quickly, I’m going to call Amazon and order something. This is making them feel good, and that’s what we offer, bottom line is we allow people to do what they want, support organizations, and to make them feel good. Now, we’re getting younger donors and we are seeing maybe some higher gifts in the email, but fewer gifts. In sort of just the email category, what I’m saying is that, now I’m in, have moved into the category where I don’t need to write a check anymore. I’m a cool old lady, so it’s like a lot of people that want to write that check and giving them the options. And also it’s now we’re seeing QR codes. I would never use a QR code, but we are seeing more and more of that and the response devices are changing and moving people to the website, moving them. But it’s very important to have the space, that direct mail gives. And the space to really tell the story because people don’t want to read, but they’ll read it in a letter where they won’t read it in an email. Like you give me a long email and I’m out of there. It’s gotta be fast. But direct mail, you can tell the story, you can tell about the person being served and what is going on. And you can tell about the organization a little bit, which I don’t recommend telling too much about the organization. It gets too impersonal. You want them to feel it. One of my personal axioms, one of Janet’s codes is like, does it make you cry? Did that story, did that email, did that communication make me cry? And if it does, it works. Email doesn’t make you cry,
Roy Jones: So you sell the emotion.
Janet Copland: It’s the emotion. So it’s that combination.
Roy Jones: One of the things I’ve seen, the actual checks that get mailed in, the difference between white mail and the business reply envelope that we send people up front. I find that people that are making bigger donations, we’ll often use their own envelope, but I think there’s something to be said for people, with capacity often are still writing checks.
Janet Copland: Yes.
Roy Jones: Thoughts there?
Janet Copland: Well, because it’s coming out of, it’s not like a credit card. You don’t want to put it on a credit card. You want to take it out of current income. There’s something different about what’s in your checking account versus what’s on a card. And you have to think more about it. And that’s been my experience, people that actually write checks are different. And it’s also, it depends on the size of the gift, obviously. You can get those middle donors to kind of ramp it up a little bit, but there is that woman, that’s retired who is sitting on a very large estate, but she’s writing a check for 10 dollars and she’s writing a check for 10 dollars a month. And then all of a sudden leaves the organization 100,000 dollars in her will, because she has it in her estate. She doesn’t have it in her checking account. She doesn’t have current income and that’s what we have to watch also, people who are consistent and they give like on at least four gifts a year, five, six gifts a year, they could be sitting on some significant wealth, but they can’t give it each month or they’re not going to give it once a year. But they’ll leave it to you.
Roy Jones: That’s interesting. Frequency is a strategy.
Janet Copland: Frequency is very important.
Roy Jones: In targeting who might be a major gift prospect or a plan giving prospect, looking at how many times someone is given is very very and responded to the direct mail, It’s interesting just to hear you talk about the difference between people that write checks out and people that, get the appeal like you said you do and I do and what I usually do, unless it’s going to be a larger gift, if it’s a gift thousand dollars or less, I’ll usually go online and make that donation.
Janet Copland: Right.
Roy Jones: But I’m a smart enough donor to know there are credit card processing fees that the nonprofit is going to have to pay.
Janet Copland: Exactly. Yes.
Roy Jones: And depending on the credit card and depending on who their processor is, it can be as much as 5% of the donation. And so if I’m making a larger gift, a thousand dollar plus gift, putting on my credit card presents a challenge. Cause I know a big chunk of that doesn’t help the nonprofit.
Janet Copland: Exactly. And I’m seeing more and more of that on websites. On the donation page that here, if you’re giving a thousand dollars, then there is like an extra. Add an extra 20 dollars or add an extra amount to cover the processing fees and the interest fees. And I think people understand it and do it for the most part. They add extra because if they’re giving a significant gift, they can cover the cost of it.
Roy Jones: Yeah, that’s right. And I see more and more nonprofits having that additional pop up. Hey, would you donate 5 dollars or a certain amount a percentage to help pay the processing fees. Initially that was really disturbing to me. But, over time, I’m getting it now and I think most donors are,
Janet Copland: You know what? We get trained. We do get trained. And I think it’s kind of like, our job is fundraisers to sort of sort through this is reasonable, this isn’t reasonable. This is going to annoy the donor. But, in the long run, this is really money that’s going to help someone and the nonprofit shouldn’t cover the cost of that and the donor is not even thinking about it. So if you tell the donor, they’re happy about that. So, I agree.
Roy Jones: Janet, thank you so much. This has been so great. We are just so honored that you joined us today. Really special and looking forward to our next time together. Thank you so much. We appreciate the time today and we’ll pick up on part two of our Fit Fundraising broadcast and interview with Janet Copland.