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5 Creative Considerations for a More Inspiring Annual Appeal

Meeting annual appeal goals can be tough in a normal year. Well, 2020 has been anything but. For healthcare providers, we recognize this may well be your most important, most challenging annual giving campaign yet. 

To offer up some support, we’ve pulled together a three-part interview series with subject matter experts in creative, analytics, and direct mail strategy to help you rise above the uncertainty and drive a successful annual appeal program.

In part one of this series, we connect with Pat Karker — a 25-year veteran of the content and creative services industry — to discuss creative considerations every fundraiser should be cognizant of as they fine-tune and evolve their annual appeal program in 2020.

As providers assess the “look” of this year’s annual appeal program, in a creative sense, what stands out differently from 2019?

Pat Karker: I'll give you a recent example. Right now, we’re working with the corporate marketing team of a fairly large healthcare organization to develop all of the material they'll use for next year — plan year 2021.

They’ve shifted the look and feel of everything. Last year, the use of corporate colors ruled and so did imagery of individuals “being healthy,” like riding a bike in the park or eating a healthy meal. That’s all gone. 

This year, all new lifestyle photography is being integrated that places an emphasis on groups over individuals. Shots of friends and families being active, being healthy, being happy, together. With all the social distancing and shelter-in-place measures, and with so many of us working from home, this trend of feel-good imagery isn’t going anywhere, and it’s something we’re seeing retailers really embrace, as well. 

We know personalized content works, but the sophistication of its execution can vary from one organization to the next. In 2020, what should fundraisers be expected to deliver in terms of personalization? 

PK: Anytime you're able to have variability in the message you're sending to a donor or potential donor, that's going to deepen the conversation, deepen the relationship, and help prove out that you know something about them. 

There’s this misconception that personalization has to be as one-to-one as possible for it to be effective.That’s just not true. 

Just from an imagery perspective, leveraging gender and geographic cues really drive the creativity — the look and feel — behind the templates we develop here. When you think about it, the image you choose can resonate differently for a woman than it would a man, or for a resident in Phoenix versus someone living in New York City.

What are the key creative elements that will make this communication meaningful to the recipient? That’s such an important question that needs to be asked and answered.

For healthcare providers specifically, do you think their story to donors should focus on the impact COVID-19 has had on their organization? 

PK: Short answer? It shouldn’t be ignored. Because, at the end of the day, provider organizations are really bearing the weight of what's going on right now. As you know, their people are on the front lines bringing a level of safety, a level of care, a level of support to the communities that they're part of. They’re heroes contributing to the betterment of society. 

That’s a really important message that shouldn’t get lost in their fundraising efforts. 

For hospitals, this year’s annual appeal is really an opportunity to not only tell a meaningful story around the valuable work they’re doing, but also explain the toll this pandemic has had on them and why financial support is so vital.

For a campaign driven by powerful messaging and donor engagement, what must fundraisers consider before they get bogged down in creative aspirations?   

PK: Whether through an internal team or an agency relationship, there are a number of provider organizations that start this process with a creative conversation around, “What’s our message?” 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an important question, but also one that can open the floodgates to
elaborate ideas, which makes aligning creative ambitions with a real-life budget more difficult. I think other questions need to be asked, first, to help lay a strategy on top of a program and stay on budget:

  • What is the output of this campaign going to be? 
  • Are we going to have a mail piece? 
  • Are we going to have some kind of an email program or a microsite? 
  • What does this journey look like?  

This approach is much more tactical. From my perspective, it’s also more prudent because it helps paint a realistic picture of the campaign [early on] and what it’s going to cost.

During this time of uncertainty, will in-house creative challenges force fundraisers to rely on external partners more or less for support?

PK: If you would have asked me this question, say, four months ago, my answer would have been a bit different.

From my experience, it feels like that outsourced mentality is always very strong when we have a slightly tighter economy, because organizations are really questioning, “How do I do this more efficiently?”

Right now, most in-house teams aren’t in the position to add five more team members or invest in new technology infrastructure. An outsourced model complements and plugs into existing infrastructure and teams. The flexibility here is the real benefit, giving them the ability to resource-up [or down] and still carry a lower cost. 

 

Bio: Pat Karker is the senior sales executive of RRD’s Content and Creative Services team and a 25+year veteran of the content and creative services industry. During his tenure in this industry, Pat has seen the proliferation of technology that accommodates efficient content creation through distribution to the variety of output possibilities available in the world we live in today.

Creative, brand adherence and executional process have driven Pat to integrate workflow technology that enables his thought leadership around content and creative services. Understanding specific industry trends in Life Sciences, Healthcare, Retail, Manufacturing and Financial verticals have enabled successful engagements that deliver effective content across digital and print mechanisms.

Head here to learn more about RRD's full suite of communications solutions for healthcare providers