Many hospital fundraising appeals read like a medical
textbook: a lot of small print filled with technical jargon describing the
hospital's latest research programs and ultramodern equipment. But not the
marketing material from Mount Sinai
The fundraising arm of Toronto-based Mount Sinai Hospital
follows a different prescription with
brochures that tell the stories of now-healthy patients, appeals designed to
resonate with prospective donors.
One piece targeted to young professionals tells the story of
Jordan, whose birth followed a high-risk pregnancy when doctors discovered a
tumour on his mother's placenta. Highlighting Mount Sinai's reputation as one
of the top women's hospitals in the world, the copy describes how Jordan's
mother received successful treatment while her baby underwent several weeks of
intensive care that allowed him to live a normal childhood. A photograph of Jordan, now 15
years old and the picture of health, shows that he's become a competitive
"We used to fill our creative pieces with academic text, and
soon found that they weren't working for us," said annual giving director Chris Carter
when communications were
revamped in 2010. "Now we use a clear and more emotional message that speaks
directly to our donors."
helps outreach to new donors
Traditionally, the foundation had relied on a handful of
wealthy donors as its major source of giving. But because multimillion-dollar
gifts may be earmarked for a specific wing or program, the foundation sought to
broaden its appeal to fund more general needs such as research programs,
crucial equipment and Right From the
, the hospital's campaign for women's and infants' health. Carter
asked Environics Analytics
determine the people most likely to donate to the hospital's general needs, and
help the foundation tailor its marketing and
to its flagship segmentation system, PRIZMC2
, which classifies all
Canadians into 66 lifestyle types based on their demographics and
psychographic social values. With PRIZMC2
, fundraisers only need a six-digit postal code
to link a donor to a vast array of neighbourhood-level information, from
leisure activities and media use to shopping preferences and donation
Analyzing the postal codes of Mount Sinai's 30,000 donors,
EA found that the highest concentration of contributors came from three
distinct groups: wealthy, older city dwellers from PRIZMC2
like Cosmopolitan Elite and Urbane Villagers; upscale immigrant groups in
clusters such as Continental Culture and Asian Affluence; and younger urban
professionals from the Young Digerati and Electric Avenues segments.
Younger donors! Who
Discovering Mount Sinai had donors in their thirties and
forties came as a surprise at first. But the analysis revealed that young
couples tend to have more discretionary cash for charities because they lack
the costs associated with childrearing. "It's a myth that younger people aren't
donating to hospitals," Carter explained. "Clearly, they are. And we had the
proof all along."
Knowing what kinds of people were most likely to support
Mount Sinai, EA helped the foundation better understand the lifestyle and
mindset of its three target groups and identify their likely neighbourhoods.
Carter organized a direct mail test, sending an old fundraising letter focused
on infection control to the new target groups.
But the results were modest - just a 0.10% response rate. Carter
initially thought the targeted marketing approach was a disappointment. But
when he compared that latest return to the control segment,
he discovered a 254% lift using the PRIZMC2
target groups. Just as important, the average donation amount rose 22% over the
control group to $71.65.
"The test proved that targeting works," said Carter. "But it
also demonstrated that we had to get better with different creatives."
portraits to donor segments
The hospital foundation revamped its marketing materials to
better connect with its donor target groups. Gone are the plain academic
letters with a "support your hospital" theme. In their place are colourful
brochures and self-mailers with compelling patient portraits that are
customized to the targeted donor groups.
For the young professionals starting families, the brochures
feature stories and photos of pregnant women getting critical care at Mount
Sinai. To appeal to the older donors, the foundation marketers profiled
Rebecca, a sixty-something woman nearly crippled with arthritis who was
virtually cured of the condition thanks to the hospital's care.
In addition, the foundation organized a Founders Society
group for long-time donors and even sent them mailings with gift tags to
encourage them to make charitable gifts in the names of their children and
brings cost savings
The revamped marketing messages and targeted mailings proved
successful in 2010. The foundation received $42 million in new pledges and
gifts, and set a new record in revenue, with $35.4 million. Because past direct
mail campaigns typically involved renting magazine lists and paying full
postage, the cost had run as high as $1 per piece. But by sending self-mailers
to all the households in a targeted postal code, postage amounted to just
pennies a piece and the total cost was as little as 30 cents per mailer - a 70%
"Charities don't have the luxury of spending millions of
dollars to blanket a market and hope for the best," said Carter. "You need to
be efficient with your fundraising and focus on areas with the greatest
likelihood of getting donations."
"Hospitals can no longer rely on simple letters describing
their good works to connect with people," he observed. "We have to think like
corporations with clear messaging and marketing so we don't get lost in the
Peter Baker is
vice president and practice leader, overseeing the fundraising, packaged goods, municipal government and
fundraising sectors practice at
Environics Analytics. This article about the work of Environics Analytics first
appeared in Direct Marketing magazine. Used with permission. www.environicsanalytics.ca.