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Opened Envelopes, Opened Hearts: Interview with Stan Guimont on The Petrus Development Show

Oct 29, 2019

In this episode, Andrew speaks with Stan Guimont, Account Manager with Palmer Non-profit Communications, a commercial direct mail provider that works with the general non-profit world. Stan has been an account manager with Palmer since 2005. As an air force veteran, Stan began working in advertising in the mid eighties, then spent some time as a radio account executive. He then worked for a publishing company whose clients were mostly non-profits. Stan has found a fulfilling career with Palmer using his creativity and natural sales ability to help his clients. He demonstrates a deep and genuine care for his clients and their needs and provides a wealth of knowledge about direct mail best practices.

Show Notes:

Stan has been an account manager with Palmer Non-profit Communications since 2005.
Palmer Non-profit Communications is a commercial direct mail provider that works with the general non-profit world, faith based organizations, etc.
He does a lot of basic needs clients/works with really challenging situations.
Some really transcend the business relationship/Embrace the character and mission of the organization and becomes friends.
One of Stan’s closest clients: Midnight Mission on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Oldest Rescue Mission in LA. Tragic situation. Until you’ve been there, you can’t conceive of how this is in one of the most affluent cities in the world. California has a larger economy than Italy. Shocking to experience it first-hand. When he is able to successfully raise money for that organization, that is the best part of his job.
Palmer works with another organization that provides handwritten notes for direct mail appeals.
How the process works with a new client:
  • have a few meetings to learn about the project/do research/give them books to read/formulate a general plan
  • create the copy
  • formulate a design
  • document comes out of design for approval by executive director, bishop, etc
  • production phase: document that expresses the creative side is created and awaits approval
  • then data portion begins (a handwritten section is always recommended here)
What are some things you’ve learned that makes good copy?​/ Where do I start?:
  • For a novice, he recommends reading Tom Ahern’s book, How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money
  • Carefully review your copy​
What are some successful appeals/campaigns you’ve been a part of?:
  • Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital: 2011 spoke to their development director who told him their development program was flat…just basically getting their money back on fundraising. Their letter looked like a bill. They did a complete 180 for the organization. Went from spending $20K and making $20K to spending $15K and making about $100K. Handwritten mail is more likely to be read, less easy to ignore.
  • Land preserve in New York: Produced something in 2017: Outside was grayscale. Inside had full color and was interesting. where the executive director wrote a lot of handwritten notes. Spent $9,000 mailing out 8,000 handwritten notes and they made $300,000.
How has Direct Mail changed over time?
  • There was a movement in 2008-2009 (bad economy, things were tough, especially for philanthropy) big push for social media, and a contracting on mailings.
  • Prior to this, phone solicitation used to work really well, but doesn’t anymore
  • Mail has come back, but you need something else added. ie: newsletter, something organic, something striking to look at
  • Having success with younger generations/millenials using direct mail because it’s a step away from the noise of social media
30% of respondents that give to direct mail appeals make their gift online. Engage with the letter/postcard but then utilize the technology to make their gift online. Still need a good website, etc, but direct mail can channel them in.

Tracking cross-channel donations is a challenge, but make it easy on yourself and your donors – Low-tech – Have a simple donate button on your website. Seed yourself in on the mailing. The day the mail arrives, look at the difference in the previous two weeks and the next two weeks for simple benchmarking.

Direct mail appeals still have a big place in the fundraising world!
What is a good communication schedule to keep?
  • Don’t put the same thing in front of donors twice in a row
  • How often you mail depends on the organization (some religious organizations mail every month, some organizations mail twice a year and both are appropriate)
  • A newsletter is a soft ask (but you’ve got to make it interesting) Ex: He is involved with Operation Bootstrap Africa – operate a girl’s school in Tanzania, support a nursing school and some other schools in Kenya and Madagascar. The mission is, “We have a girl’s school.” The sub text is, if you take a girl out of a village they will avoid a horrible life involving being forced into a child marriage and cultural abuse. Recent story they learned of a former student who is now an embassy worker at the Tanzanian Embassy in Washington D.C. The newsletter puts a name and a face with the mission and shows the impact they have.
Really enjoys working with campus ministries. “I can resist anything but temptation.” – Oscar Wilde
Palmer is able to bring the campus ministries’ stories to life
What other mistakes need to be avoided? And How do you guide organizations in the right direction?
  • Simplify your language (experience what you’re sending from the perspective of the donor)
  • If it is an appeal letter, there has to be asks in there. It has to be obvious/immediate impact (too soft of an ask is a big mistake)
Do you advise to ask for a specific amount in an appeal letter or to just ask the donor to be generous?
  • It depends on the giving level. $1000 threshold. Variable ask on a letter based on the last gift.
  • If someone gave over $1000 previously, just say how generous their last gift was and say if they could give again, this is the impact their gift would have (the larger it gets, based on last gift, giving history – might be better to just give them a call)
  • Put a line in there: “I would like to donate a different amount.”
What should everyone do to generate more monthly gifts?
  • Option to set up monthly/planned giving should be in every communication you send out

What options are best for the Remittance piece?

  • It depends on the organization. He usually defaults to the remittance card with pre populated information and an envelope.
  • Some organizations really like the remittance envelope with the flap
  • Do an AB test with it: Randomize it and send half one way and half the other and see what the results are
* He advises using incremental testing..change one small thing each time you mail something out
Outer Envelope: Is there anything else you would say to never send out a mailing without doing this?
(“Before they open their hearts they have to open the envelope”)
  • He really doesn’t like window envelopes (not charming)
When should you remove someone from your mailing list?
  • Stop mailing to them if they’re deceased (many organizations never run their list through the social security database)
  • Look back 36 months and if they haven’t given, you can keep them in your back pocket, but stop mailing to them
Any other resources to direct to new clients?
  • All of Tom Ahern’s books
Lightning Round
  1. current homelessness in big cities
  2. Bill Gates
  3. Example: ALS Bucket Challenge; If people are inspired by a challenge, they’ll give
  4. “I probably got that advice and didn’t follow it!” Get a better education earlier in life.
  5. Joe Hanson – First mentor in advertising, Tom Ahern, doesn’t have a third answer

To connect with Stan or for more information about direct mail appeals, email [email protected] or visit the Palmer Printing website and hit the non-profit communications button

Andrew’s three takeaways:
  1. Importance of handwritten notes on your appeals and newsletters
  2. Impact stories
  3. Planned giving (make sure that you’ve successfully planted that seed)
Andrew’s Action Item:
  • Consider doing an AB test on your next appeal.

Giving to religious causes vastly exceeds any other category in the nonprofit sector, but faith-based organizations often struggle the most with fundraising effectively. Join Andrew Robison, President of Petrus Development, as he explores this topic through honest and revealing conversations with church leaders, executive directors and development professionals from the nonprofit community.

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