How does your charity compare to a serial killer?

September 5 2010 - Mark Phillips

If you find yourself thinking that your charity has a tough job raising funds because you can’t demonstrate the level of need that can be offered by children’s and cancer charities, you need to watch this video.

It’s from a 90s TV show called TV Nation created by Michael Moore and shows the results of a unique direct mail test where packs were developed and mailed out for three very unusual causes…

Friends of Charles Keating

Keating was convicted of fraud after a number of his investment companies went bust leaving thousands of investors holding worthless bonds.

Friends of Jeffrey Dahmer

Dahmer was a serial killer who murdered 17 men.

Friends of Roy Sekoff

Roy Sekoff is actually presenting the video. When this piece was filmed, he worked as a realtively well paid writer and TV producer. He’s probably better known now for being the founding editor of The Huffington Post.

The piece isn’t supposed to be serious.  But what’s most interesting is that the direct mail company they employed really did their best to generate a response. They obviously had to avoid the negative aspects of each particular cause so they focused on the donors and built the appeals around their interests instead.

The packs were written by Marty Gallenter who describes his creative approach as…

“a sort of an intellectual exercise… what approach could be used to raise money for genuine villains? I approached Dahmer with focusing on the traditional (knee-jerk?) liberal reaction of a threat to civil liberties. Of course, I actually find this posture to be credible. With Keating I decided to appeal to the type of personality who was worshiped in the eighties… free enterprise, money making, greed-is-good types.”

And people responded. Keating’s appeal got a response rate of just under
2% with an average gift of $68, Dahmer generated almost 1.5% with an
average gift of $60 and Sekoff didn’t do very well at all.

It just shows what can be achieved when you are forced to focus on the needs of the donor rather than rattle on about why your charity is so great.

After you’ve watched the video take a look at the actual letters here. They are great examples of what really works in direct mail.