After a recent merger, The Gateway Region YMCA counts 25 branches in both Missouri and Illinois. Each branch engages and communicates with its own donors and supporters, who believe in the impact a Y can make on a neighborhood or community. The Association Giving Office, which assists all branches in raising funds, was interested in approaching a sample set of donors with information, and eventually an ask, that wasn't tied to their own geographic location.
Nothing connects with people better than stories, so that’s where we started. We wanted to surprise and delight donors who had been long-term supporters with stories of real people whose lives had been changed by community-building programs like Adult Literacy and Inclusion Services. With a goal of inspiring curiosity and learning, we set about creating engaging pieces that donors would enjoy and remember.
Do you know Y?
Every communication is an opportunity to build a brand and these direct mail pieces were no different. Our copy includes words and phrases that donors would be accustomed to hearing as part of the Y story to draw them in to engaging with the mailer. Once they opened the envelope, a slightly different than expected, and very compelling, story was revealed. We made sure to give recipients a way to respond, too: each package included a response form to ask for more information or volunteer.
Since this was the first time these donors had received an educational piece from the Association Giving team, instead of an individual branch, we needed to use the brand assets they were familiar with in a new way. We worked with the brand colors and font to evoke the positive feelings that each donor has for the organization, while expanding the palette to bring in a different energy and frame the stories in a new way.
Connecting with Authenticity
Campaign photography shows each person in the Y atmosphere where they were impacted. Subjects telling their own stories led to emotional and authentic images that help donors understand the real people they are helping. The impact is backed up by statistics and additional information in each mailer’s copy.
Interacting with Print
To stand out in print, we think about a reader’s journey with any piece. How will they recieve it? What else will be in the mailbox or on the counter with it? How can we excite them enough to open? How can we use the outer mailing panels to educate and inspire, if they don’t choose to open? The four YMCA campaign mailers used the same mechanism of die-cuts on the outer envelope to encourage recipients to find out more inside. And oh yeah, they’re fun!
“We just love, love the pieces! We had a lot of learnings about ourselves and our donors through this process and we're very happy with how it all turned out!”Kayla Williams, Association Director of Philanthropy, Gateway Region YMCA
The Gateway Region YMCA is part of YMCA of the USA, and follows the national branding guidelines that all associations across the country are asked to follow. Far from making these pieces feel cookie-cutter, the national standards gave us important parameters for communications that could help build the overall brand. The result is unique, and also undeniably the Y.