9203 Mike Garcia Dr, Manassas, VA 20109 540 428 7000 info@grassrootcomunication.com

Marketing Flashback: McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog

Marketing Flashback: McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog

Jack Keil, the advertising executive who created and gave voice to McGruff, the cartoon hound who exhorts Americans to “take a bite out of crime,” died on August 25th at his home in Westminister West, Vermont. He was 94 years old. (The New York Times Obituaries Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Public service announcements are, by their nature, boring. Being told to be careful around strangers, or not to feed the bears in the woods, or to take care not to start a forest fire, is all perfectly sound advice. But it’s not a way to keep top of mind. Moreover, most people don’t like being told what to do; it comes across more like nagging than providing a friendly reminder.

Clever marketers, guys like Mr. Keil, understood this problem and devised a clever way around it. Mr. Keil’s basic insight was recognizing that the most memorable way to present information – any information – is through a story. Taking this idea one step further, Mr. Keil realized that creating an unforgettable character who would act as the spokesman for the cause – in this case, relaying tips and advise on how to reduce neighborhood crime – would give the message the needed “sticky-ness.” And, thus, McGruff, a tall, tough, trench coat wearing dog detective was born. “He wasn’t vicious, not tremendously smart, maybe, but he was no wimp either, “said Mr.Keil about his canine character. “He was a father figure, or possibly an uncle figure.”

Giving the message a mascot and a catchphrase was a stroke of marketing genius. Instead of brushing off warnings to lock your doors and advice to start a neighborhood watch, people would see McGruff the crime-fighting dog, and they would immediately remember it was incumbent upon them to “take a bite out of crime.” In fact, McGruff is so iconic that most people forget (or simply don’t know) that there is an actual nonprofit organization he represents called the National Crime Prevention Council. According to three studies conducted by market research firms on behalf of the NCPC, 8 out of 10 children recognize the crime-fighting dog as do 9 out of 10 adults. And remember, the mascot was created almost 30 years ago. That’s stickiness!!

The point is that associating a cause or message with a loveable mascot endows that cause or message with a provocative narrative element that’s impossible to ignore. As a result, the exhortations to pay attention to something or take action for someone are softened in just the right way for an org’s target audience to process, absorb, and respond to.

Jack Keil understood better than most that the better a story-like element can be woven into an organization’s pitch, the more powerful it’s “ask” would be. He was truly a pioneer or message marketing, and he will no doubt continue to live on through his most beloved creation: McGruff the Crime-Fighting Dog.

See article: ‘Jack Keil, 94, Who Created McGruff, Crime-Fighting Dog’ by Daniel E. Slotnik; The New York Times 9/10/17

How an Appeal is Like a Letter From a Lover

A recent piece in the New York Times Magazine briefly discusses how to write a love letter. Not only did we find the article interesting, we also noticed the striking similarities between the advice the author Malia Wollan (quoting Professor Sonia Cancian) provides for composing the love letter and the techniques used to write an appeal letter to donors and members. Some of the more notable excerpts from the article are reproduced below:

1. “A letter has a remarkable way of transpiring feelings, emotions, honesty, sincerity, and authenticity.”
2. “You have to strike a balance between poetry and descriptions of everyday life.”.
And last but not least.
3. “When you are in love with someone, you want to know what world surrounds them.”

Perhaps the comparison between love letters is a bit contrived. Nevertheless, the goal of establishing a genuine personal connection remains central to both instruments. I use the word “instrument” because I want to emphasize that personal letters are simply tools – tools used by the sender to create an experience for the reader. The experience begins by vividly describing the current state of affairs: the “everyday life” of the reader and the “world that surrounds them “as mentioned above.

But the letter’s true magic lies in its ability to lift the reader out of her everyday humdrum life and whisk her away into a completely novel setting, one on which the pain, suffering and want that characterizes ordinary human life is vanquished all thanks to the reader. In the context of a love letter, this transformative and euphoric state is caused by the writer and the recipient coming together in space and time and loving each other while becoming a spiritual entity. This union leads to the “happily ever after”. In the context of an appeal, however, it is the heroic efforts of the donor that allows the world to flourish.

Thus all successful letters provide a sort of window into an alternate reality, a vision of potential utopia. But whether that utopia becomes reality is left as an open question in the letter. It is presented by the writer as a choice to be made by the reader. In a love letter, the question asked is – “will you reciprocate my love for you?” But in the appeal the donor is asked – “will you love and support our cause and people we help?” The proverbial ball is left in the recipient’s court, and only when she takes action is goodness restored to her world. That’s the genius of a well-written letter; it creates an experience that transcends ordinary life and inspires the reader to make an enlightened choice.

As we have mentioned a few times before, writing effective appeals is as much art as it is science. It also requires constant practice, tinkering, and experimentation. Luckily, we have a team of dedicated writers who are more than happy to help you craft your organization’s appeal letter for any campaign you want to launch. Don’t get stuck at the last minute with the stressful task of writing the appeal letter that your organization’s fundraising campaign depends on to stay afloat. Let us take the pressure off of you so you can get back to doing the job you signed up for without any more distractions.

See Article: “How to write a love letter” by Malia Wollan ‘Tip’; The New York Times magazine P.25, 9/3/17

Find Out More About Our Content Kitchen & Word Science

  • Package Design And Writing
  • Crafting Distinct Message For Each Segment Identified In Step 1
  • Story Telling For Emotional Appeals

Amazon.com Recommends New Products; We Recommend New Donors

Ever wonder how sites like Amazon.com are able to recommend new products to you that they know you will enjoy?
One word: data.

Simply put, the site looks at your past search history, purchasing behavior- even likes on social media in order to predict what you may want to purchase next. Now imagine that very same idea applied to your organization for the purpose of finding new donors. By looking at prospects’ past voting history, giving behavior, even their political ideology, we can predict which citizens in your area are likely to respond to an appeal from your organization.

This is a powerful tool for acquisition campaigns; instead of reaching out to random people or blanketing an entire geographical area with generic campaign materials, we can;
• Target specific groups of prospective donors
• Send them personalized appeal letter
Thus, the same data that helps us track down high-quality prospects gives us hints on how best to approach, engage and convert those prospects.

This type of micro-targeted outreach is ideally suited for non-profits and advocacy organizations trying to increase their visibility, build their base of support, and grow their revenue. And it’s all made possible using predictive analytics.

When you think of donor analytics, think Grass Root Communication.

Exciting News!! We’re Moving!

GRC will be down on Wednesday February 21st as we will be moving to our new location! We will be back up and answering emails and phones on Thursday February 22nd. In the mean time, please feel free to email us and we will get back to you as soon as possible! – GRC Team


We’re reaching out to you with some very exciting news: we’re growing!
After nearly 18 years at our current location, we’re moving to a new, expanded location.
Our new address is:
9203 Mike Garcia Drive, Manassas VA 20109

We will have lots of news in the upcoming months on how the move will help us serve you better. For now, however, the most important information we want to convey is how the move will affect you.

Our final day of production in the current location is Wednesday, Feb. 21.
We then move our entire operation to our new facility. We expect to be up and running 100% by March 1 at the latest. Our goal is to minimize the production downtime, but for your planning purposes, please assume that no jobs will be delivered from Feb. 21 – Feb. 28.

If you’re working on projects with us that you need before March 1, we encourage you to reach out to us asap to ensure we can meet your timeline. Simply put, the sooner you get current projects in to us, the better!

Please reach out to us with any questions. We appreciate your patience during this process and are looking forward to serving you from our new location!

Sherene Rapoport
VP of Sales and Marketing
Grassroot Communication

Ph: 540.428.7000 x3032
Fax: 540.428.2000
E: sherene@grassrootcommunication.com

Tools for Change Agents In A New Organizational World

As an Economist magazine puts it. “Trust can be defined as the expectation that other people or organizations will act in ways that are fair to you.”*

We find ourselves in a time when Americans simply don’t trust organizations, businesses or even each other. According to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago last year, only 32% of respondents feel that “most people can be trusted” down from 44% in 1976. When interpersonal trust breaks down, citizens lose faith in the many institutions that allow democracy to function. So what does this drastic loss of trust mean for nonprofits?

The first noticeable consequence is the decrease in political participation and involvement – especially through the traditional structures like political parties. Instead of contributing time and money to political parties more and more people are supporting advocacy organizations that work to advance the specific causes those individuals are most passionate about. As citizens continue to lose trust in two-party government and its attendant infrastructure, they will turn to citizen run nonprofit organizations for leadership and guidance. Instead of counting on institutions, such as regulatory agencies and the courts, for redress, the electorate will splinter off into factions unaffiliated with the political parties so that those groups can work on real solutions to their grievances.

This is what grassroots organizations are all about, crafting real solutions to real problems while avoiding the sluggish, creaking party apparatus altogether. And these aren’t your grandparents’ church groups; these are sophisticated organizations that aim to spread their message and implement their agenda using cutting-edge data analytics to personalize content and micro-target sympathetic audiences.

Like the fearless wildcatters searching for oil in the Arctic, and the creative programmer who architects a paradigm-shifting social network, the leaders of these next generation, leading-edge advocacy organizations are visionaries. We call them social entrepreneurs because they create cultural wealth and social opportunity.

But as with the entrepreneurs of the for-profit variety, social CEOs need resources and strategic guidance to their organizations and grow their brands. And that is where we come in. Grass Root Communication has a suite of services – as well as our very own nonprofit incubator – that can assist any organization in crafting its engagement content, growing its support base and increasing its influence.

For example. Our Data Lab specializes in gleaming strategic insights from your house list as well as injecting additional demographic and psychographic information into the list and using it to target more prospects. Our Word Science department uses those same data patterns to identify different segments and to write captivating, persuasive appeals for each one of those sub-groups. And our Brand Factory can cultivate your organizations brand, transforming it from obscurity to visibility.

Whatever your cause, whatever your agenda, GRC has all the tools a social enterprise needs to develop its vision and perfect its outreach.


*(August 12th, 2017 pg. 53 )

Building Diversity Friendly Campaigns

Eden Stiffman, a contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, has written an eye-opening article about how to reach out to more ethnically diverse donors. According to the article by Eden Stiffman, “6 steps to Attracting More Diverse Donors,” the current donor population is over-representative of Caucasians at the expense of other racial groups when compared to the US population as a whole.

One piece of advice Stiffman offers is for the non-profits to re-evaluate the tenor and content of their donor communications. For example, the stories told by organizations should be “culturally appropriate” and “welcoming” to people of other races and religions. Be wary of culturally offensive stereotypes that might accidentally show up in your organization’s marketing materials.

This is especially true of images, many of which depict people of color as the needy beneficiaries and only white people as staff members, board members, donors and CEOS. Featuring more diverse staff and organization leaders could go a long way in conveying to donors that there is serious commitment to diversity in place. And producing newsletter content in multiple languages may be appropriate depending on the ethnic breakdown of your organization’s donor base.

As always, examining the composition of this donor base is the first place to start when determining how to execute your strategy to attract diverse donors. And the best way to assess the demographics of the support base is to perform a high- level donor analysis (which we can do for you right now!)

Eden Stiffman, the contributor, also suggests getting a second opinion regarding how your organization’s message is perceived.

Sometimes it’s helpful to bring in someone from outside the organization to provide a new perspective,”, he notes.

Please feel free to contact us if you need that new perspective.
Our campaign experts would be delighted to take a second look at your donor engagement approach!


See article: ”6 steps to Attracting More Diverse Donors” by Eden Stiffman; the Chronicle of Philanthropy

For Donors, It’s All About the Experience; For You, It’s All About the Convenience

Donor engagement is so vital to a nonprofit’s survival that there ought to be a separate C-Suite position devoted to it – The Chief Donor Experience Officer, perhaps. But since nothing like that exists as far as we know, that job inevitably falls to and becomes your responsibility by default. That must be a burden on you and that’s why you should instead put that burden on us here at GRC. Let our team of campaign builders create a seamless donor experience through your organization’s main fundraising channel – Direct Mail.

At its core, engagement is a story told in a dialogue fashion. 
SO instead of your organization’s communication speaking at your audience, it should speak to it. The narrative element is the substance of what is being spoken to the donor. At first, the personalized communication engages the donor in a one – way conversation – like a monologue. But the conversation is structured in a way that nudges the audience to respond with an action – like sending a gift – which thereby transforms monologue into a two-way dialogue. The key is inspiring the donor to respond to your organization’s pitch.

Coming up with the story that makes the donor want to take the responding or subsequent action is both an art and a science. Not only do our writers have the skill to string the right words together in mellifluous fashion, our data scientists supplement that literary talent with useful data regarding the donor’s characteristics, passions and past – giving behavior. The extra information allows our writers to craft the most apropos narrative theme for the appeal as well as adjust the phrasing to best match the donor’s stage in the conversation life cycle.
For example, those that have given to your organization for the first time need to be treated differently from those that have given several times and from those who gave a few years prior but never again. Each segment must be handled differently with regard to the content you send them and the language you use to pique their interest, draw them in and seal a deal by asking for their gift. Even the dollar amount you suggest is personalized.

donor engagement fundraising nonprofit

Dialogue is critical to the donor experience and personalized communication allows this dialogue to take place as if you were right there speaking to the donor on her front porch. For a successful campaign, everything from the analytics to the content – to the message- to the print production must come flawlessly. That’s why we handle all of that data, design and production elements in-house. So, all your campaign components are harmonized and ready for your donors. And dealing with only one person, throughout the entire process also makes your life easier. We even take care of the post-campaign performance analysis so that we can learn what works with various donors and what needs to be improved upon for next time. Last but not least, we keep you apprised of everything throughout the entire campaign build so that you remain in complete control.

Don’t get stuck with stressful fundraising headaches
– like having to slap together an appeal letter at the last minute. 
Talk to us about taking care of your organization’s fundraising needs
so you can get back to doing the job you signed up for.

We’re now Grass Root Communication.

Ever since our company was founded in 1986, we’ve been helping organizations grow by creating compelling, results-oriented outreach campaigns. We’ve continued to evolve, and—responding to our clients’ needs—take on larger roles in helping them with their outreach strategies.

As part of this evolution, we’ve rebranded our company to better reflect the role we play in supporting you.
We’re now Grass Root Communication.

While our name has changed, our goal remains the same: we’re completely focused on helping organizations of all types share their core message with their supporters.

One thing that our 31 years in business has taught us is that grass-roots strategies play integral roles in almost all outreach efforts—from initial pushes to campaigns created for large organizations that have been in business for years.

Equipped with that knowledge, we’ve shifted our focus to ensure that every campaign we touch benefits from both our production skills and our strategic insight. Our new name reflects this change.

Effective grass roots outreach involves a large degree of personalization backed by data gleaned from impeccable sources and accurate lists. Finding that data to empower personalized communication has long been a hallmark of our approach.

For instance, our targeted direct-mail campaigns take advantage of persuasive appeal letters designed to inspire our org’s constituents to take bold action-adopting the organization’s goals as their own. Thus, just as grass roots movements aim to mobilize citizens from the ground up, our personalized direct mail campaigns target those very same people on the ground in their homes by engaging them in an honest conversation.

As we continue to sharpen our focus on creating and managing complete campaigns, you’ll be getting the same high-quality offerings you’ve come to expect from GRC, just more of it. More data, more personalization, and more original content creation.

In the future, we will continue developing our social media and email marketing services to synergize with our micro-targeted direct mail strategies. We will find new ways to combine data science with content marketing so that we can deliver a highly effective omnichannel engagement experience for your org’s donors and members.

So from all of us, we officially welcome you to the new GRC.
We look forward to playing a role in your continued success.



Sherene Rapoport
VP Sales and Marketing


Fundraising: The Year-end Push

The last few months of the year are filled with much joy and reflection—from warm gatherings to celebrate holidays to looking back over the last 12 or so months to see what’s been accomplished.

For fundraisers, the time is often hectic, however, as year-end donor pushes are often what make or break a year.

If you are planning a donor push as 2017 comes to an end (or 2018 kicks off)—don’t panic. Even if you’re in the midst of developing your toolbox (how’s that analysis of your data coming along?, you can still put together a solid campaign that delivers results.

The key: have a plan, and execute it.

The incredibly useful Supporting Fundraising blog has the perfect post  to help you sort out the basics for a well-constructed fundraising plan. It breaks the process down into four steps, which we’ve outlined below, adding some of our own insight.

1) Know your donors and your prospects

Understanding who will give and who may give is the foundation of any fundraising campaign. This starts with identifying who has given, and who has expressed interest in giving. Knowing this ensures you are sending the appropriate message to each segment, and will improve your conversion rates.

2) Use multiple channels

This is a message we communicate often, but it can’t be said enough: if you rely on just one type of outreach, such as an appeal letter, phone calls, or online donations, you are not maximizing your potential returns. Simply put, people respond better when exposed multiple times to the same (or very similar) messages. Plan a letter and back it with social media or an ad. Include mentions of your campaign in routine communications, such as renewal notices for members or subscribers. Whatever the tactics you chose, choose more than one.

3) Leverage matching-gift opportunities

This can be an easy but effective way to boost donations. As Supporting Fundraising notes, you won’t know which of your donors are affiliated with organizations that match, so make sure you communicate the matching-gift opportunity in all of your outreach. This can be especially effective for new donors, who like to make as big an impact as possible right out of the gate.

4) Tap peer-to-peer power

In the fundraising world, few tactics are as effective as direct outreach to people in your circle. Start with the people you know, and ask them to extend the courtesy. While such outreach may not cover the same number of prospects as a direct-mail piece or an ad, the impact of tapping people you know directly can greatly boost the likelihood of a conversion.

As you approach your next campaign, remember to take a step back and come up with a simple yet well-thought-out plan that covers the basics: knowing your audience, connecting with them, boosting donation opportunities, and reaching out to those you can influence most.

Looking for help with a campaign or specific elements? We would love to hear from you! Contact us today for a short consultation.


Grassroot Jumpstart: Leveraging Your Data

Great copy, brilliant graphics, and a compelling offer can influence the effectiveness of your outreach campaign. But if you’re looking to get the most out of your marketing efforts, start with your data.

Having a deep, flexible dataset on your customers and prospects is the most important outreach asset you can have.

How robust is your dataset, and how effectively are you using it? If you’re not sure, let us show you—and help you get more data, as well as more out of the data you have.

FREE Consultation GRC

We will analyze your dataset and make recommendations on how it can improve. FREE.

Then, we’ll help you broaden and refine your targeting. We’ve partnered with industry leaders for analyzing donor data and appending relevant information to identify the most likely donors, and how to find more of them.

With 25% of U.S. households providing 80% of nonprofit donations, accurately targeting prospects has never been more important.

Several of our clients are among the 3% of nonprofits using data-driven tools—and they are seeing positive results.

Contact our Vice President of Marketing, Sherene Rapoport, to learn more about our  Grassroot Jumpstart: Data Enrichment program.

Email Sherene directly at sherene@grcdirect.com or 540.428.7000 to get started on your data-enrichment journey.