TONBRIDGE & MALLING GUIDE TO RUNNING A SUCCESFUL DRAW When data-mining for a raffle mail-shot there are four potential target sources 1. Previous buyers If your Association’s records have been maintained accurately these should have been recorded on Merlin as RTB (Raffle tickets bought) or DTP (Draw tickets purchased). You may have your own local variant. These supporters are your bread and butter. 2. Members and Donors who have not previously bought tickets Every association will have many members and donors who have not previously bought raffle tickets. Many of these may not wish to participate or have a religious or moral objection to gambling, however, if you have not targeted this group recently it is worth contacting them to see what response you get. If, however, you have written to them in the last two years and they have not responded, there is little value in writing now as the political climate is no more favourable than it was when you last made contact. 3. Pledges plus This group are not members or donors but are on record as having given more than their vote. These might include poster sights (DWP or DGP), deliverers (DEL), tellers (TEL), social event attenders (ASE) plus many more. You should use your own local knowledge and data-base accuracy to identify these people. However, as above, if you have contacted them recently and they have not responded, this is probably not the best time to do so. 4. Cold targets These are Conservative pledges who have never previously been targeted but are worth contacting to replace losses. I shall deal with this group in more detail later. Data Mining Once you have decided the breadth and depth of your mail-shot, export the data from MERLIN into an Excel spreadsheet – this allows for greater manipulation of the data. For example, you can “marry-off” members who MERLIN has not auto-married and change salutations to first names where you personally know the recipient. The fields we export are : Full roll number Salutation Addressee Address lines 1-6
Don’t forget, when you export your data, to exclude status codes “Deceased” and “moved” and membership status “resigned” and ‘no mail’. You should also have recorded previous refusals to purchase raffle tickets, and these should be flagged on MERLIN. These should also be excluded. Once the data has been exported to a spreadsheet, add an additional column directly alongside the salutation, and use this column to record the draw ticket serial numbers sent to each target. This is not as complicated as it may sound and is very useful as it allows you to identify the source of tickets which are sent back to unsold without a covering letter, thus enabling you to flag them and not to waste future resources sending again. To record this information you should identify the lowest serial number on the draw tickets which have been sent to you by the National Conservative Draw Society (NCDS) – the printers helpfully write the serial numbers on the outside of the box, and the tickets are packed sequentially inside. For example, your lowest serial number might be 10,001 – you should therefore enter “10001” in the new column alongside the first name, and then use the following simple formula to populate the remaining cells in that column =sum(b2+20) (see example below). If you drag that formula down the page it will automatically increase by 20 the serial number for each recipient. Providing your packer takes care, it is a simple exercise to record which numbers have been sent to each recipient. (See example below) NB: for data protection, all names, addresses and polling numbers shown in the following samples are fictitious.
Appeal Letter We always use the A4 sheets with embedded labels, which can be purchased from NCDS. These are expensive but, in our experience, their use increases sales by 30-50%. Many people are concerned that only having half a page to write the appeal letter is not sufficient, but please remember that the people who are buying tickets do not need to be convinced – they are writing a cheque to support the Conservative Party and need a short, positive and hopeful reason to do so (see sample below).
Mail-merging the data When you mail-merge the letters ensure that the Electoral Roll number, and the ticket serial number are printed on the return labels – this will make it much easier for you to identify the respondents and record their contribution on MERLIN. Don’t forget, when entering the information on MERLIN, to check also that they are coded as having bought raffle tickets, thus enabling you to target more effectively in the future. Reply Slip Always include a reply slip asking the supporter to write the value of the tickets purchased with a separate box underneath entitled “Additional donation to the Campaign Fund”. The reply slip also includes to whom the cheque should be made payable, and the return date. The reason for doing this is two-fold. 1. It saves space on the letter and 2. It encourages members to give a donation, either in addition to the raffle or in lieu. In Tonbridge & Malling about 30% of members give an additional donation.
Always enclose a reply-paid envelope I once heard the arguement that sending a reply envelope only encourages people to send back unsold tickets! Yes it does, but that is a good thing. Given that you will send a reminder to those who haven’t purchased, plus further tickets each 6 months, it is a false economy not to know who doesn’t want to buy them. It is far more cost-effective in the long-run to flag someone as a refusal than to continue sending tickets they do not want ad infinitum. Do not over-pack the envelope Over-packed envelopes are the scourge of any fund-raising initiative! It is a natural inclination to save money by enclosing, with your draw tickets, details of various branch events, a notice for the next Executive Council and a report from the MP – the reality is that the more you place in the envelope the less the contents will be read. The contents of any appeal’s envelope should only contain information about that appeal to maximise response. Reminders Yes, they do work – but you need to be judicious in who you target. We only send reminders to supporters who bought draw tickets last year but haven’t responded this time. This maximises response rates while not significantly increasing costs. When you send a reminder, send two further books of tickets and another reply envelope. Last Christmas Tonbridge & Malling sent 220 reminder letters at a cost of around £120 in postage and printing; this resulted in an additional £600 of ticket sales over the following two weeks! We always send the reminder two weeks before the deadline to give a sense of urgency (see example below).
Say “Thank You” Even a large association such as T&M will only have around 200 purchasers. Writing a thank you letter with details of local winners, along with a note of how much was raised and what the money will be used for, is not only best practice but also is a very worthwhile investment to encourage future help and support. To identify from MERLIN who has bought draw tickets this time simply download “Donations exist” between (date) and (date). Providing you have recorded your response data accurately, this will give you a list of supporters who has bought tickets or made a donation in lieu.
Cold Prospecting Sadly each year we lose donors through death, removal, age or resignations. Unless these are replaced we will be chasing diminishing returns. Each draw (summer and Christmas) we ask one or two branches to hand-deliver draw tickets to pledges. The response rate from this is poor, but even at 2%, it more than covers the cost. For example, if a branch hand-delivers to 500 pledges the cost is around £30 for printing – if just 2% respond this equates to £200 of sales. Even after paying NCDS their 30% commission, you will be left with a surplus of around £100. More importantly, however, you will have identified 10 donors who can be approached in the future, thus replacing those who have been lost. To encourage branches to participate we always allocate the money raised from this initiative to the branch quota. If you wish to reduce the expenditure, and the amount of packing/delivering, you may further filter the targets by only writing to more recent pledges, or perhaps only to those who voted at the last election, or even writing only to those aged over 50 who are the most likely to buy draw tickets from us. Conclusion A few months ago the Chairman of the Rochester & Strood Association asked me if T&MCA would review how they ran their summer draw with a view to maximising their income. By implementing the above strategy their 2013 summer draw proceeds increased from £350 to £1200. I hope this guide is helpful to those readers of my blog who have asked for further details.