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DMAW 2014 MAXI Awards Highlights

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maxi-awardIf you were one of the 1,700 attendees of the 2014 DMAW Bridge Conference, you most likely captured valuable insights on successful marketing and fundraising strategies and techniques. Day one of the conference offered the chance to feast your eyes on winning direct response campaigns at the 35th DMAW 2014 MAXI Awards.
This year’s MAXI Award winners had something in common – they all made compelling use of personal stories and drove response through deep personal connections with their audiences. This ‘essence’ can’t be captured in a photo of a format. The secret sauce appears to be simple at first glance but it is really quite complex.

Imagery & Design

Many winning campaigns found creative ways to communicate the vision of the organization. For Best Friends Animal Society’s New Clinic Appeal, the creative rendering of a future animal sanctuary clinic successfully conveyed the vision.
exploratoriumWhat is an Exploratorium? The Bronze winning Exploratorium October 2013 Membership Acquisition package created a visual journey, making it easier to understand the concept.
Photos were incorporated directly into letter and reply creative, as a cost effective alternative to including an additional insert.
Maxi winners also showed that simple design works, especially when it’s an emergency. Fundraisers also made good use of the color red to convey urgency for emergency appeals.

Emotional Stories & Personal Touches

Guide Dogs for The Blind’s October Belo Cipriani Testimonial Appeal (Bronze winner for Digital Nonprofit Special Appeal) included a personal survival story and generated 77% more revenue than the previous year.
Best Friends Animal Society’s Save Them All Poster Appeal included a bright orange, well branded poster and presented a heartwarming message of hope and a clear goal to save all of the pets identified by the organization.
Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue’s Memories of the Season (Silver winner for Multi-Channel Nonprofit Special Appeal) put an emphasis on personal stories. This campaign coordinated mail with email and generated 95% more overall in revenue over the year prior.
If Michelle Obama asked you to send a personal birthday card to the President, would you do it? Sure, why not? The DNC June Birthday Card Appeal has worked before and it worked again this year, taking the Silver in Direct Mail Political Special Appeal.
Several winning direct mail packages showed that investing in real handwriting for the right audience can really move the needle.
A memorial card for a favorite pet compelled a $20 dollar donor to give $10,000.

Coordinated Efforts & Consistent Campaign Branding

Direct mail still rules at the MAXIs, but the winning campaigns in the Multi-Channel category showed amazing results with simple, clear calls to action. Multi-Channel sounds complicated but it can be deconstructed into manageable parts to fit most budgets. And if you hit a wall, consider the advice of Liz Murphy of Red Engine Digital on this very topic and “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Multi-Channel musts: Optimized landing pages and customized donation pages. Landing pages should be easily read on a variety of devices and must match the branding of the campaign so the donor has a consistent, branded experience that they can trust.
National Park Foundation’s 30 Days of Giving Email Campaign (Gold winner for Digital Nonprofit Special Appeals for Email Campaign and Bronze for Website Campaign) used mobile optimized landing pages to increase the number of gifts by 44% over the previous year.
Multi-Channel references you should embrace: ‘Lightbox’ and ‘hijack the website’. Several award winners in the Digital Media and Multi-Channel categories won big by incorporating a lightbox into their campaign.
The Wilderness Society included a lightbox in their Year End Acquisition, taking advantage of the typical year end increase in website traffic and garnering a 35% increase in response rate for Year End.
PCRM’s “Have a Heart for Dogs” Campaign (Silver winner for Digital Nonprofit Special Appeal) included a lightbox on the homepage which brought in 40% of total revenue for the campaign!

A Little Something Extra

And now for the fun stuff – those little “extra somethings” that drive engagement and response, time and time again.
Premiums: CDs and DVDs were included among this year’s direct mail award winners – worth the investment if there’s a solid connection to the mission and if it’s for the right audience segment. Personalized paper premiums – address labels & certificates – continue to be successful as well. Don’t ask how many address labels someone could possibly need – it’s a lot!
President’s Report-Annual Report-Status Report: People want to know what you’ve accomplished and the challenges ahead. Call it what you want but there’s a reason why personalized reports continue to perform. Donors want a special relationship, behind the scenes information, and the opportunity to engage with others like them.
Special inserts: Bumpy gets opened! Kitchen sink inserts performed well – or in the case of one calendar mailer – a bumpy/textured outer envelope did the trick. In reviewing the winning formats, I can safely say that inserts don’t always depress results!
Major donors: The 9 x 12 rules. And the string of stamps can’t be denied – especially if one is commemorative.
Custom printed postage stamps: These were included in three of the winning campaigns. Not inexpensive, but the results were amazing.
Miss the MAXI Awards this year? View highlights from this year’s award winning packages in our SlideShare!