How can we stay safe by staying home… when we have no home to go to?
That’s the question many homeless individuals in Boston faced in 2020. Pine Street Inn (PSI) has provided shelter and assistance in the city for more than 50 years but faced with this new challenge, it turned to its donors for extra help.
By the end of 2020, it wasn’t easy to motivate people to keep giving. Donors in Boston had already dug deep and responded to social service nonprofits with tremendous generosity. They’d been through eight months of the pandemic and were getting a lot of fundraising requests at the end of the year.
PSI mails an acquisition notecard package in November, which performed well, even before the pandemic. Would it be able to maintain that success in this environment?
The package concept is simple: Because many men and women experiencing homelessness “have no place to sleep but a park bench,” the front of a notecard shows a black and white image of a park bench, the edges blurred so the focus is on the cold, hard wrought iron, and wood.
This notecard was still relevant in 2020, but the copy inside the notecard was revised to put everything in the context of the pandemic. Many homeless individuals in Boston had nowhere to go when stay-at-home orders were issued.
And, with temperatures dropping below freezing, PSI needed to double its efforts to safely continue to help homeless individuals in the community. The notecard laid out the very real need for increased masks and handwashing stations while keeping residents physically distanced.
PSI also expanded its acquisition universe for the first time, including new statewide lists and some from neighboring states. It was a risk that pushed its expense budget, but PSI knew it was important to invest more at such a critical moment.
This streamlined package format, powerful message, and the right timing yielded:
The FY21 campaign’s average gift increased 39%, thanks in part to 2x more $1,000+ gifts than last year (including one for $25,000!). Even with that large gift removed, the average gift was still 13% higher than FY20.
This special campaign also reduced the cost/dollar raised by nearly 60% and reactivated nearly 500 five-year lapsed donors!
And that expanded geo area? It yielded more than 200 new joins from people hearing from PSI for the first time. That means that 5% of the gifts for the whole mailing came from this group.
Finally, the client was deeply moved by the outpouring of support, especially from new donors it had not reached before, allowing PSI to serve more men and women in Boston, helping them stay healthy and have a roof over their heads.