This is a great riff from Artie. Thanks to Ed for the link. I’ll reprint it here. I think it’s a fascinating marketing strategy because it causes half the people he engages with to take action, and I also think it’s a compelling commentary on how incredibly difficult it is to get the richest people in the world to become philanthropic:
Of all the direct mail we create at Young Isaac, our own holiday cards are my favorite.
Once again, our holiday checks are in the mail to hundreds of our
favorite clients and friends. Each check is signed and ready to cash for $8. But there’s work to be done by
the recipient. Each of our friends has to forward the check to a
favorite charity. (And some of our friends add their own checks because
$8 isn’t much.)
We get three questions every year. Here are the questions and the answers:
Why do you do this? Back in the 1990s, we
received a lot of holiday cards that said, "Happy holidays. We donated
to a charity in your name." We wondered, tactlessly: "Oh, yeah? Exactly
how much did you donate in our name? Did you spend more
telling me than you did donating?" (We’re not proud to have thought
this way, but that was the thought.) So we decided to send money rather
than self-congratulatory cards about some mysterious gift we made.
Problem was, we couldn’t afford more than $8 (it was $5 the first year)
per person. True, $8 isn’t much, but we send a bushel of these, so it
puts a dent in our net revenue.
How many get cashed?
In all our years, our record is 53% cashed. That seems sad, because so
much money doesn’t reach a charity. On the other hand, most direct mail
doesn’t enjoy even 2% conversion. On the third hand, since we forecast
that half gets trashed, we send out twice as many as we would if 100%
were cashed. This year, we’ve tried a few new things to increase the
yield. We’re testing an additional envelope to help get the check
forwarded, and we added a list of charities with their addresses on our
What’s been the best story? The first
year, a young woman called to say thank you: "It was interesting. I
first thought, ‘I like the zoo, so I’ll send it to the zoo.’ Then, I
sat back and thought about being a single mother. And I decided to send
it to Planned Parenthood and I added a check for $100. You know, this
was the first time that I had ever made such a conscious charitable
decision." It thrilled us to think that our check made this person a
Happy new year!