Charitable Observations

I’m sitting here with two DM packages in front of me. Both feature #10 envelopes. On the flap of one, (I’ll call the ABC Society) the address is printed in purple. On the flap of the other, (which I’ll call the XYZ Association) the address is also printed in purple.

The ABC envelope has a recycled-paper logo and a statement about recycled paper in the bottom left. That of XYZ has the identical logo and statement in the bottom left. Not a lot to choose from so far, but don’t despair. They then go their separate ways. Barely.

ABC has their logo in purple in the centre, while XYZ has their mission statement in purple in the centre.

The envelope faces have different graphics but, because the addressing vehicles of both packages feature a peach colored screen showing through the window, they look similar.

If you happen to pull out the BREs first, you’ll notice that they both have purple logos in the upper left. They both have their return address info, bar code and postage-paid indicia printed in black. The backs of both BREs say, “Thank you” in purple.

But surely the letters differ, you say. After all, the causes being promoted are as different as Doris Day from Bob Knight.  You’re right to a degree — ABC has their logo in purple at the top; XYZ has their purple and gold logo at the top, along with a quote in purple.

Typically, both letters begin “Dear Friend” and have indented paragraphs. Both use the same typeface. Neither uses cross-headings. Both say, “…over please” at the end of the last paragraph. And both feature their addresses at the bottom. In purple of course.

However, there are two differences I should mention. The ABC letter is about someone named Elizabeth; that of XYZ is about someone named Bradley. Plus, ABC dated their letter October 24th while XYZ dated theirs a day earlier.

The backs of the letters? Black text with a blue signature in both cases. The postscript of ABC says, “I’ve enclosed a magazine article written by Elizabeth that I’m sure you will find very moving.” The PS of XYZ begins, “I’ve enclosed a moving letter from Bradley’s mom…”

Reaching this point in the letters, I’m tempted to move that these non-original non-profits give the reading public a break from their Tweedledee-Tweedeledumness. And I’m totally convinced I should do that once I get to the response devices.

Each donation form measures 4" x 8-1/4" and is printed on card stock. The backs of both forms feature dark purple type on a light purple-screened background. The fronts of both have a purple box taking up the right-hand third of the piece, with the remaining two-thirds utilizing a peach screen under purple type.

So what’s the problem with having two packages that are so strikingly similar? Impact. Both short-term and long-term. Which translates into results.

A recipient might feel inclined to respond to one of the packages if s/he received just one. But when someone receives both copycat packages on virtually the same day, as in this case, the non-profits’ credibility goes down the proverbial tube.

I ranted about a similar problem with two other disparate non-profit packages in the April 24, 2000 issue of Strategy Direct & Interactive and had hoped that the practice would have ceased and desisted by now. Since the creative swapathon has continued, I have to presume that either (a) certain fundraisers have not caught the packages’ creators in the act of reselling design or (b) some have been convinced that it’s worth saving a few dollars on art, even if it is at the likely expense of donors and results (and that’s presuming that their agency has offered them a discount).

Not-for-profits from coast to coast are fighting harder than ever for share-of-heart these days. Getting into creative bed with someone who’s competing for your donors’ sympathies and wallets isn’t the way to win what you’re due. Separating yourself from the pack is… even if it costs you a couple more bucks for design, or a little time finding someone who can provide creative that’s not as recycled as the stock the package is printed on.