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:Holiday_check_small2

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 website.

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 philanthropist.

Happy new year!

[Postscript on the power of the blogosphere: This post was picked up and repeated on the blog by national marketing guru, Seth Godin. That led many new readers here to Net Cotton Content and created much joy for all.]