a purl for aunt ruby

Yesterday we introduced my Aunt Ruby as our online donation tester. Today I want to make sure you know of a way that might help all the Aunt Rubys give online more comfortably–while making them feel special.

Pearls for Aunt RubyThe strategy uses a PURL–Personalized URL–not the knitting stitch. You’ve probably seen these in various hotel industry offers or timeshare promotions. Your letter might say: go to www.stevethomas.cheaphawaiianvacations.com or something like that. When you enter that URL you go to a log on page where you can enter your name and the “secret code” you received. And voilá, you’re taken to a personalized page that has your special offer.

The way this can work for your Aunt Ruby and all of the rest of us is that you could create a unique PURL for each of your donors in a particular campaign, which might take them to a page that has a special message, say a video from your Executive Director or other unique kinds of info. On that page you’d have very clean giving options with a unique information just for Aunt Ruby and maybe even some additional information about the need. If you have great donor software, you could even have that integrated with their giving history… OR even allow them to update their contact information… OR become part of your online community… OR… well the possibilities are really cool and nearly endless. Think of all the DVDs you’ve sent to your donors that you KNOW never made it into a DVD player.

I’m not sure that any of us have the fundraising PURL thing completely figured out yet. But you should do some investigating and know we’ll keep talking about it. Also @postalsystems has a nifty explanation about PURLs if you want to see how it works in a commercial setting.

We’re talking about lots of online integration strategies and wouldn’t it be wonderful to give all your Aunt Rubys a simple, easy way to get to you online? A PURL is one way to do just that!

What do you think about PURLs? Have you used them yet?

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credits: Rhys Jones Photography)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

11 thoughts on “a purl for aunt ruby”

  1. Following up on purls: Don, one of our partners who’s a database pro and really understands security raised a couple of questions on the Purls for Aunt Ruby. (I’m synthesizing Don’s questions/comments). He’s always on track and I want you to hear his thoughts.

    1. Security. I did make it seem that Aunt Ruby’s letter from her charity would contain her login and password into her actual account information. Sorry, didn’t intend that. My thinking is that she couldn’t (nor could anyone else) get to her personal info without a secure password that wasn’t set up with the device I was describing. In other words, if she were already set up with a password and login then her purl could deliver her to a landing page that would have information for her and then she could login with her secure password (not mailed to her with the purl). I didn’t make that clear. The landing page from the purl wouldn’t have any more sensitive information on it than a personalized direct mail piece might have.

    But Don has a couple of tougher questions…
    2. Search. It seems that purls can show up on a Google search. If so, this might be a problem for some (many?) donors. Someone Googles Aunt Ruby, and they find the purl: http://www.auntruby.ministry.org…. Hmmm… I’m doing some research on this… any thoughts? This could be deal breaker for me.

    3. Marketing Ploy. Don wonders if the Aunt Rubys of the world, assuming they’re well over 30, might find purls too much of a marketing technique. My thinking is that any strategy can seem like a gimmick, but it’s worth asking… What do you think? Are there ways to make this feel personal without being gimmicky?

    As always, Don’s thinking on security and privacy are intriguing and spot-n. Both issues are huge and becoming more important every day. This is exactly why I listen to him.

    So. Now that I’m out on a limb here, what do you think? Security and privacy could make me take my purls back from Aunt Ruby.

  2. Steve/Hoots

    Good topic. Here is one way that a purl can be integrated.


    Donors that you don’t have data on will hit this landing page.
    If you do have data, their personalized link can be sent by way of mail or email. ie…steve.thomas.keytoucla.org

    It is a gimmick, but it is not so saturated the market that it’s worn out. All of these things have cycles.

    I would say the security concerns are one of perception of the donor. This is a question of strategy and culture more than security. It’s only a security concern if the folks who set up the data don’t know what they’re doing. There are lots of other ways to stumble upon Aunt Ruby’s name in connection with an organization…both on and off line.

  3. @Mikey: The strategy you describe, where it is a blind login style purl does reduce the security issues, but it is less personal… and reduces much of the good stuff.

    Ah, but we’re not done with this purl thing, more thinking to come, this is a good strategy that connects technology, strategy and donor interest.

    We have some posts coming on Major Donor and Mid-level Donor strategies, which won’t surprise anyone will incorporate some pretty cool/effective techniques.

    Many thanks for your insights.

  4. @Mikey: Regarding Don, you’re right but he’s SO much more than a good IT guy–he understands technology, strategy, the big data stuff all the while being REALLY nice to people like me who don’t know what goes on behind the curtain but know what magic I need. He’s another one of the real assets Oneicity is blessed to have on our team. Smart, competent and not full of himself.
    Thanks for recognizing his goodness.

  5. Hi, my name is Eric Johnson and I am the PURL Campaign Manager for Postal Systems, a leading provider of PURL Campaigns.

    First off I would like to thank Steve and Onecity for linking to our website in this article.

    Second I would like to answer some of the questions Don had about purls.

    1. Purl landing pages can be set up with or without a password that would either be random and included in the direct mail piece or pre-determined on the mail list.

    2. As far as being able to find landing pages using google a good purl campaign provider makes sure that the pages are set to tell google robots to noindex the pages, meaning google and other search engines will not list them in search results

    3. It can be seen as a marketing ploy, yes, but so can every other form of marketing. On another note, who can resist at least visiting a website that has your name as part of the url. If the respondents are not interested in your service or product right away they may still be interested in viewing the website simply because it has their name on it.

    On another note campaigns have a landing page that is set up specifically for guests, which will populate the guests data into a new list for you.

    The Purl Camapigns we offer also have full tracking and reporting including tracking links, trigger lead emails, autoresponses, and a full traffic lead and response reporting and graphs system.

    For more information on Purl Campaigns (email as well as direct mail) please visit Postal Systems Purl Campaigns and Direct Mail Marketing or if you have any specific questions feel free to contact me Here

  6. @Eric–Thanks for the information and perspective. I’m curious about your #2. So any purls can be excluded from Google search??

    Do you have nonprofit clients using purls?

  7. I’d add to what Eric says above…

    Variable printing (on a digital print job) is something you should think strategically about. The personalization of the url can, in most cases, be extended to the rest of your design and copy.

    If you want to throw in a personalized fields throughout the mail piece, your printer should not charge you per field. If you have one variable field, you can have as many as you want without extra setup work on the part of your printer. I have had a couple of printers tell me to make sure to shout this from the roof tops.

  8. @Mikey, yeah the variable printing is something we “get.” Some time we’ll tell you about the major donor portfolio that had about 60 versions, art versions driven by gift calculations and individual ask calculations. Fun (and raised a ton of money) but the production guys were hating me. We have a couple of rules (at least) on this: 1. make sure all the CRM is driven by strategy first, 2. make sure that it is driven from the data.
    Thanks Mikey, great thoughts.

  9. @steve Yes any purl can be excluded from search engine traffic. We usually set it up to always exclude, if we want guest traffic we use a share/save link for social media sharing.

    Yes we do work for nonprofits all the time. We just dropped a campaign for the Junior Statesmen Foundation with full on variable image and text postcards for six regions in the US.

    You can visit the guest landing page here if you like JSA Symposia09 Landing Page All of the links on the page are tracking links and the request info button will take the respondents through a survey and let them update their information.
    The register now link is also tracked and integrates with JSA’s registration portal.
    It is also set up with real-time lead trigger emails and text messages so that JSA can respond quickly to their respondents. The feedback so far… they love it!

    Google webmaster tools also has a robots.txt generator
    that will let you create the file that will block search engine indexing.

    Once again feel free to contact me with any more questions. Contact Postal Systems

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