The Ottawa Mission: Testing Direct Mail Fundraising Appeals

Direct Mail fundraising appeal by HMA beats competing appeal by 35%

The Ottawa Mission is a non-profit, faith-based ministry, meeting the needs of the homeless and those at risk of being homeless in the Ottawa region. Established in 1906 on the foundation of food, clothing and shelter, the demand for The Ottawa Mission’s services has increased dramatically in recent years. The Ottawa Mission’s programs and services have evolved to meet the ever-changing face of homelessness in that city.

The Challenge

The Ottawa Mission wanted to see if they could boost the results of their Christmas direct mail appeal. They retained the services of HMA to test our strategy and creative approach against that of the Mission’s incumbent direct mail fundraising agency.

The Solution

We examined the direct mail pack that the incumbent agency was going to mail. We reviewed the case for support, package elements, letter length, design, writing style, letter tone, the ask made in the letter and on the reply device, and more. We then interviewed the client, and created a strategy for our test.

The Test

We created one package and tested it against two packages that the incumbent agency created and mailed in October and November. The goal of the test was to match or beat the response rate and average gift of the incumbent agency’s packs.

The Results

In November, HMA’s pack beat the incumbent’s pack by a variance of nearly 14%. In November, the difference was even greater: our pack beat theirs by more than 35%.

Client: The Ottawa Mission

Services: Direct Mail



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Harvey McKinnon Associates