Be a Nonprofit Thought Leader

At a time when many mailing service providers struggle to maintain profitability from traditional service offerings, below is the story of one small mailing company that transformed itself, opened new business services, and survived the recession.

Rescigno’s Marketing Connections in Bridgeview, Il learned long ago that it couldn’t be “simply” a mail house for the nonprofit organizations it served (mostly in the Midwest).  As Ron Rescigno tells his story…


And Another Great Day for  Being a  Nonprofit Thought Leader!

Back when my wife, Sue, and I started this business in 1992 in our two-car garage, that’s what we were — a mail house. Stick the address labels on the envelopes, get’ em as straight as possible, seal them so nothing flies out, sort them according to USPS rules and regulations — subject to the interpretation of the bulk mail unit attendee even back then (boy, I had a few good dust ups with them over the years!) and get those trays or those dirty bags over to the post office.

Times change and businesses either adapt or fall by the wayside.

With the advent of digital print and social media, we had to make a decision. It wasn’t something we necessarily wanted to do, but if Sue and I wanted to survive the Great Recession we had to become more than just a “mail house.”

There were 2 things we did that changed the game and the business model for Rescigno’s:

  1. We took the plunge and invested in a digital printer (we had never printed) that would allow us to present our nonprofit clients with a new, more targeted way of communicating with their donors.
  2. We had to commit to becoming thought leaders. When you’re on the back nine of your life, that’s easier said than done.

As Zig Ziglar, the inspirational speaker, once said, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.”

And, really, that’s the reason for this blog to this audience.

Whatever industry you serve, position yourself as an expert in that specific area, back up your assertion by the value you bring to your clients, and they will chase after you. That’s right, you won’t have to be the seeker. Your future customers will seek you out!  Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Don’t get the wrong impression. This is easier said than done, for sure.

For us, it took a few years to get our current clients to view us as more than just a vendor — as, in fact, a trusted partner in their work. For some, it’s still a work in progress.

What’s great about this is that in doing so, we learned that there’s a price tag that goes along with being trusted and depended upon for strategy and techniques that lead to enhanced donor response rates and increased dollars.

It’s been a game changer for us. We’re now consultants to nonprofits and, by the way, will also do their design, print, and mail — if they really, really want us to. J

I’ll give you one simple example of how we work with our nonprofit clients:

Not all that long ago we learned that a healthcare client of ours received a legacy gift of nearly $2 million. This gift was from a lady that the healthcare institution had not been in contact with for years. When she moved out-of-state, they stopped communicating with her. We noticed in studying their database that this elderly lady had been a volunteer at the hospital for years, so we suggested that they begin to reach out to her via various communication touches such as newsletters and appeals.

Before they knew it, in the mail one Monday morning was a check for $250. As soon as we heard the news, we strongly suggested that the VP of Advancement give the lady a call to thank her personally. He kind of hesitated and said that he only called if the gift was at least $1,000. He said he would get to it. “No,” we said. He needed to do it sooner than later. That day, as a matter of fact. We shared with him some recent success stories at that $250 threshold.  We even worked on a script that he could follow if the conversation wasn’t flowing smoothly. Gerry, the VP, made the call and was surprised that the woman was so warm and friendly. The conversation was easy and pleasant.

Here’s what happened next: over the course of the next couple of years, whenever the hospital would send the lady anything, she would respond with another $250 gift. Upon receipt of each gift, Gerry would pick up the phone and call the lady. At this point, they were getting to know each other pretty well and even learned that they had a few things in common. Gerry was enjoying these brief, yet uplifting conversations with the lady who so long ago had been a volunteer at the hospital.

One day, Gerry got a certified letter in the mail from the state of Arizona where the lady resided. It wasn’t from her though; it was from her lawyer. The elderly lady had passed away recently, but in her will she had left the hospital the $2 million I mentioned. She also left a note thanking Gerry for taking the time to re-acquaint her with the hospital. She said she knew the hospital must be in good hands because he was such a nice “young man.”

Full disclosure: Gerry is set to retire next month, but that’s not the point. The point is that this VP of Advancement at a major Chicagoland area hospital listened to our advice — advice he was paying us for — and received the biggest “gift” of his career.

How can you help yourself while helping your clients?  Become their trusted advisers.  We did!


Mailers Hub presented this blog to show how one company, facing the pressures of the recession, made smart decisions about its business model, found new ways to bring value to clients and, in the process, survived circumstances that other mailing companies didn’t.  The mailing business isn’t getting easier, so reading about Rescigno’s turnaround might be the inspiration that another member of the mailing community needs to steer back toward profitability.

If anyone would like to contact Ron or Sue Rescigno – longtime members of the former MFSA family – they’d be glad to share their experiences: ron@rescignos.com or sue@rescignos.com.

 

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