Your Story Matters

Imagine being just 39 years old, a mother of three young boys with a healthy diet and lifestyle—and a diagnosis of cancer. Imagine you also live in Frederick County, Maryland, where the #1 cause of death is cancer and more than 300 people succumb to the disease every year.

These are the circumstances that Sharon Chilton, a nurse and breast cancer survivor, faced in 1998. From surgery to radiation to chemotherapy, her entire treatment was done at Frederick Memorial Hospital (FMH), and the hospital’s cancer care has only improved since then.

FMH’s new Cancer Institute is working to change Frederick’s startling cancer statistics. The Institute is revolutionizing cancer treatment by providing patient-centered and convenient care by award-winning clinicians in a peaceful and compassionate healing environment.

To help cultivate donors and raise funds for the new Cancer Institute, FMH wanted to send a fundraising appeal letter to prospects throughout Frederick County. Patient

Engaging the Head & the Heart

Prospects included people with an existing FMH relationship (donor or volunteer) and other Frederick County residents who earn more than $80,000 annually. Although the hospital had raised funds through appeal letters before, the style of those letters was ineffective.

Enter Graphcom. Because these letters would be sent to the entire community—not just previous patients and families—we wanted to appeal not only to people’s emotions, but also their sense of logic. We needed to make a strong case for improving cancer care in the Frederick community, both with storytelling and with hard data.

We researched cancer data in the community and included infographics along with powerful narrative in the content of the letter.Dr

Putting Our Tools to the Test

Although they had raised funds through appeal letters before, FMH had never conducted any testing to discover what worked best for their audience. When Graphcom proposed to conceptualize, write, design, print, and mail the letter, we suggested FMH test which techniques generated the best response.

Here are the variables we tested:

  • Envelope design: Would a standard return address from FMH work any better than an envelope with a teaser or obvious messaging from the fundraising team?
  • FMH relationship: Would a letter sent to previous donors and volunteers perform better than a version sent to cold prospects?
  • Letter author: Would a version of the letter written by Dr. Soberman, who heads the cancer institute, work better than another that came directly from cancer survivor Sharon Chilton?

Did it Work?

You betcha. We discovered some strong, statistically significant differences between our tested variables.

  • The letter from the doctor received 46% more donations than the letter from the patient
  • The no-teaser envelope received 29% more donations than the one with a teaser

And while that’s all very interesting, we know you’re asking: But what’s the bottom line? Did they make money? Did they acquire new donors?

Yep! Total donations were $52,833 (well over double what the mailing cost the client).

  • $2.45 = Funds raised for every $1 spent
  • 301 = Total number of gifts
  • 119 = New donors

And that’s how to create community appeal letters that work.


We’d love to help get your next appeal off the ground. Contact us today at 800-669-1664 or to get started.
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