Look what I found

YMCA 1896 Cold Pack

Click for full size image and transcript

A box pack from 1896.

I found this gem in the YMCA archives. It’s a mid-value appeal pack to build the Newcastle-on-Tyne YMCA in 1896. It’s over a century old, and it uses many of the best techniques that still work today

The capital appeal was sent to households across Newcastle-on-Tyne. Recipients were asked to collect donations (and regular gifts) towards the new YMCA building. The appeal exceeded its target and the Newcastle YMCA was opened in 1900 by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught.

What’s great about it?

  • The writer gets straight to the point. Isn’t afraid of asking, and then repeating the ask. And he certainly doesn’t apologise for asking.
  • A purse is included for the recipient to collect contributions. Dimensional mail, driving response (is this the earliest box-pack?).
  • Underlining is used perfectly to draw attention to key points. Again, just like the most effective packs today (to the chagrin of some designers).
  • The writer makes it clear to the recipient that they are understood to share the values and vision of the YMCA.
...we enclose herewith a purse and collection card 
together with some circulars – so that you are 
now equipped for the work of collecting a sum 
(which we trust will not be less than £5)

£5 was equivalent to £300 today!

  • The fundraisers understood that they shouldn’t waste time when converting cash donations to regular giving:
In seeking a donation to the building fund will you 
please help in securing Annual Subscriptions of 
from 5/- to 20/- Those who show their sympathy 
by a donation to the Building Fund are the most 
likely to help the work with an Annual Subscription.
  • It brings the supporter closer to the work and gives them status. The purses containing gifts towards the Building Fund were presented to the Duchess of Connaught and placed on the foundation stone of the new building. All of the donors names were listed in the annual report.
  • These guys were database driven (well ‘card index file’ driven at least). They’ve provided the recipient with a list of likely supporters in the neighbourhood to call on.
  • Quite beautifully, the letter finishes by stating that YMCA trusts that the donor will enjoy giving:
...trusting that you will have every reason 
for thankfulness that you ever helped.

See the full transcript here.

What might not work so well today?

  • Sentences are long.
  • The need isn’t defined – the predicament of the masses of young Christian men drawn into the city following the Industrialist Revolution, with little opportunity of physical exercise or pastoral care. But perhaps the enclosed ‘circulars’ covered that?
  • Was there a handwritten PS added? I’d like to think so. We know that that gets a 30% higher readership than the rest of a letter.

Does the last pack you saw work this hard?

You can see more magic from the YMCA archives here

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2 responses to “Look what I found

    • Thanks for the comment Kirsty.
      It’s certainly one for YMCA fundraisers to be proud off. I think it’s better than a lot of other charity packs out there today – over a century later!

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