One of the most amazing things about Uncle Maynard's Treasure Trove of Direct Mail Knowledge is that nearly every piece in it has been opened. Uncle Maynard takes his philanthropic duty very seriously. Despite the fact that he gets a big pile of requests for funds in the mail every day, he opens and considers nearly all of them.
But there's one type of mailing in there that more often than not came to me unopened:
Thick, oversized envelopes stuffed to the gills with high-end freemiums. We're not talking address labels here. There were things like gloves, calculators, flags, blankets. High-value stuff. Actually, crappy and cheap versions of high-value stuff.
Why doesn't Uncle Maynard open them? He grew up during the Depression. He doesn't throw stuff away. But these mailers have worn him down. In fact, this is the only complaint about his direct mail that he's voiced to me: They send me all this stuff I don't need.
I hope these mailers are responsibly testing, and their packages continue to generate acceptable response. I also hope they've got their eyes on the long-term value these mailings generate. Because the typical potential downside of this tactic is that it brings in large number of low-dollar, low-involvement donors. The initial response is high, which could mask the fact that you're creating a list that's in an constant state of churn and failing to generate acceptable net revenue.
It's possible to have a "successful" direct mail program that brings in a lot of donors and dollars -- but creates a cash drain on the organization that's invisible because they aren't paying attention to the right numbers.
I have no inside knowledge about these mailers. They may be doing just fine. But I've seen the numbers on some organizations that were using similar fundraising tactics who were caught in a death-spiral they couldn't escape.
As long as more Uncle Maynards out there don't open the envelopes, the problem will continue to grow.