The direct mail fund raising industry was once largely populated by a corps of talented individuals who in large measure were motivated by their desire to help those in need, started agencies that would allow them to leverage their God given talents for a greater good.
Increasingly the industry has been taken over by "captive" agencies who as either a direct subsidiary or on a hidden commission basis are used as a tool for printing, mail shop, data management, list brokerage or telemarketing companies to win orders for the other parts of their businesses. In these captive agencies the creative design and list selections are often heavily influenced by the capabilities of the vendors of whom they are captive rather than what is best for the client. At the same time, often after an introductory period, costs for package elements dramatically escalate leaving fewer and fewer dollars for those the non-profit is serving.
In a world where an increasing number of vendors are offering hidden commissions to agencies, we have a strict policy of not allowing any compensation or financial interest whatsoever from or in vendors.
What's more, we insist that packages are at least bid to three independent vendors. Further we do not mark up invoices. This combination of three independent bids and no mark ups is one of the most important ways we drive down costs and increase net income for our clients.
In every case we have ever had where our package production costs have been compared on an apples to apples basis with other agencies, we always had the lowest costs.
Expensive packages very often do raise money but those revenues are more than consumed by the costs leaving little to help the suffering of the world. Design and production must work in concert to drive down cost and generate net income.
But the most powerful prospect and housefile mailings with the exact right list selections and lowest possible cost will fail if the prospect or housefile mailing schedule is not managed and followed. When an agency drops a prospect late it often results in lower response because the mailing runs the risk of competing with another rental of the same names. If a housefile is mailed late it means that the entire schedule of future mailings must be compressed which at some point reduces the amount of income from each of the future mailings
Finally, it is a balancing act to ensure that there is quality production that effectively communicates our client's message without appearing so expensive that it undercuts the appeal for funds. What's more, ensuring quality requires an enormous oversight effort by your agency to protect you from that which can go wrong actually going wrong. Griswold & Griswold, Inc. has a proven track record with their clients of overseeing vendors to make sure quality packages mail month after month with rarely an error of any type.