Giveaways or "incentives" have always been a big part of direct mail campaigns, but the one that's being offered to mid-level donors and prospective donors in July is a first. For a $100 donation to AARP Foundation, contributors will receive a large — 24-by-36-inch — two-sided map of the United States. One side is a current physical map. The other side, however, is a map of Foundation activities state by state.
See also: Ways to give to AARP Foundation.
The direct mail team is offering this map because it's a powerful means of showing what AARP Foundation is doing across the United States. The map shows donors and potential donors what's going on in their own state, which gives them a terrific incentive to support our work and demonstrate how their commitment is making a difference.
This new AARP Foundation map symbolizes the growth and expansion of the Foundation over the past couple of years. In 2009, the side of the map highlighting Foundation activities would have been notably less populated than it is today. There would have been Money Management Programs and WorkSearch in some states, with SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Program) and Tax-Aide having the greatest reach. But state-by-state data on elder hunger, poverty levels and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) would not have been reflected, as our work had not yet begun in these areas.
AARP Foundation's success, and ultimately our impact, is closely tied to the funds we raise, and our fundraising record is remarkable. This was brought home to me recently when the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University released Giving USA 2012, their 57th annual report on charitable donations from U.S. households, corporations, estates/wills and foundations.
Overall, the report had better news about the 1.1 million registered charities and 222,000 religious groups that depend on these donors than it did in 2010. Charitable donations rose 4 percent to $298.4 billion in 2011 from 2010, continuing their upward climb from the recessionary abyss of 2008 and 2009, when donations plummeted along with the economy. But there's still a long way to go to regain 2007's record donation level of $309.7 billion.
Here's how these numbers compare with AARP Foundation's. Like most others, donations to the Foundation were higher in 2007 than they were in 2008 and 2009. By 2010, however, contributions to AARP Foundation had soared above 2007's levels, and in 2011 they rose still more. From 2007 to 2011, including the worst of the recession, donations to AARP Foundation increased 31 percent. For 2012, our donations are way ahead of our projections, and we've revised them up.
Why has AARP Foundation done so well? David Whitehead, our Chief Development Officer, and Steve DelVecchio, our Director of Direct Response, tell me there are three reasons for our success: our mission, our messages and our commitment to managing fundraising costs.