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It's an old show business adage: "Never work with children or animals." The gist is that they'll upstage you every time.

However ... nothing works quite as hard as children and animals in fundraising direct marketing, as evidenced by a recent solicitation we received from Salem Hospital, now part of Mass General Brigham. The package is pretty simple, but packs an emotional punch. We'll explain how.

The generous 6" x 9.5" outer envelope incudes a teaser line: "What's new? (A lot, actually.)" We like the oversized proportions and the conversational teaser. It's paired with a screened back color photo of a masked caregiver holding a masked child. Although the subject matter is still timely, and the artwork does make the package stand out against other mail, the ghosted image feels dull and dated. (We created a lot of similar packages for long-term care insurance in the early 90s. Suffice it to say, we were very very young at the time.)

Inside, the package is missing a brochure, which surprised us at first. But, we soon realized that the letter was working overtime to make up for it. The personalized, full-color letter includes a compelling message from the hospital's president and a persuasive P.S. We learn that the team at Salem Hospital "still go above and beyond in providing expert medical care along with access to some of the worlds most talented specialists." We're told that "A healthy hospital is a vital part of a healthy community." And, we're assured that "Our name is new, but as you can see from Noah's story, our legacy for exceptional care goes on."

And that's where the package really shines: Noah's story.

In a sidebar, complete with a band of contrasting color and a full-color photo of caregivers and a child, we get the story behind "Close call for Noah." Noah, it turns out, was COVID positive and exhibited Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome — "A condition unique to children that emerges from the virus and makes them extremely ill." After multiple days on a ventilator, he improved and was "able to return home to Lynn." The sidebar copy concludes:

"It's good to know that our highly experienced pediatric emergency team spotted what was happening — and that Noah's family had access to some of the world's most distinguished pediatric programs at Mass General for Children at Salem Hospital."

By now, through relieved tears, we're saying "Sign me up. How much do you need?"

An insert helps. It's pre-personalized with name and address and offers proposed gift amounts of $25, $50, $100, or "Other." There's room for questions about employer-matching and estate planning. There's even an opt-out option. Finally, there's a post-paid BRE.

The package is quick and appears to be economical (despite a three-way match). A brochure with more children's stories and/or explanations about how donations are put to use would have been a nice addition. But, without testing, we can't know whether it would have helped or hurt the ROI of the campaign. Meanwhile, Noah's story certainly tugged heartstrings and made the message feel urgent and contemporary.

Overall, the Bs at B Direct give the package a thumbs-up.

And, we're so glad Noah's feeling better.


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