Elk NetworkThe Bull In Your Mailbox

Bugle | May 17, 2018

If you’re a member, you’ve probably noticed that Bugle isn’t the only mail you receive from RMEF. Over the course of a year, you could also see renewal notices, event invitations, fundraisers, sweepstakes, surveys and more. Some may call it “junk mail.” Gasp! We call it fun mail. And, the truth is, RMEF’s mail campaigns have also become vital for elk country.

In fact, at this very moment, your next trophy may be growing high, wide and handsome in habitat whose protection and management is being funded by way of U.S. Mail.

Here’s what you need to know about this important conservation tool.

Why We Keep Showing up in Your Mailbox

In 2018, RMEF projects more than half of new members—and a significant portion of the money we net for habitat protection and stewardship—will be born in a mailbox. This represents major growth over the past decade. Small gifts in small envelopes are adding up to big results. Along with big-game banquets, major donations and estate gifts, RMEF’s mail program is part of the reason why this organization is so fiscally healthy and mission-effective.

But, snail mail, really? Isn’t that old school?

Yep, and here’s why it still works. RMEF uses top-quality, name-brand incentives such as knives, duffels, flashlights and more to help drive donations. And RMEF sweepstakes offer a real chance to win incredible hunts, cash and prizes—true once-in-a-lifetime loot.

Participants tell us they enjoy supporting conservation and receiving a great gift at the same time. For members who can’t make their local banquet, mail is among the next-best ways to engage with RMEF and ensure our sporting lifestyle.

Behind the curtain: as RMEF membership and total volume of mail have risen, the cost of getting an individual mailer to your door has fallen. Even if you’re not interested in a particular offer and toss the unopened package directly into the recycling bin (repeat gasp here), your mere presence on the RMEF mailing list helps the cause, because RMEF is now seeing nice price breaks on bulk printing and postage. Outgoing efficiencies have also improved. On the back end, we’ve invested in staff and equipment for in-house processing of your incoming reply mail.

Finally, we take huge pride in sending out those incentive gifts and sweepstakes prizes as quickly as possible, often within a week!

Donate and Get a ‘Free’ Gift…Wait, What?

Our mail campaigns often use language such as, “Donate $25 and receive this flashlight FREE!” And a few alert members always point out that free gifts aren’t really free if a donation is required. Which is semantically correct, but there’s a better way to look at it. Stay with me on this.

If RMEF were selling flashlights as a commercial retailer, we would be required to collect sales taxes. However, since we’re merely offering a free thank-you gift in appreciation for your charitable donation, there’s technically no sale. Thus, no sale to be taxed. Further, RMEF is allowed to mail its free-gift offers via far lower non-commercial postal rates—another benefit reserved for nonprofits.

Using the word “free” is legit. It satisfies regulators and means more of your contribution goes directly to elk, elk country and elk hunting.

Pen Pals with Benefits

If you’ve never paid much attention to RMEF mail campaigns, give the next one a closer look. Most packages include freebies—a small memento or two to say thanks for your membership.

Lots of nonprofits, including us, send the ubiquitous sheet of return-address labels because they continue to be popular. But RMEF packages may also contain extras like personalized shipping labels, freezer labels for your processed game meat, carcass ID tags, targets, notepads, recipe books, cartoons, photos of jaw-dropping world record bulls and more. Whether or not you choose to donate, enjoy these little goodies with our compliments.

If you decide to contribute, you’ll receive a nice thank-you card and receipt showing any tax deduction that you may be eligible to receive.

If you contribute often enough, totaling $100 or more per year, you’ll be part of an exclusive group that we call our Founders Club. You’ll start receiving more extras such as mission updates, special deals on limited-edition items and added recognition for your stepped-up support.

But most donors say it’s really not about these material bennies. Above all, it’s the personal satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping—one small gift at a time—to make a meaningful difference in America’s last best places.

The Next Frontier

While RMEF’s mail program figures to stay robust, certain components clearly would perform better on a digital platform. Topping the list are smaller quantity, complex mailings such as membership renewal notices. Allow me to get momentarily mathy.

RMEF now boasts more than 200,000 members who pay annual dues. (Our 25,000-plus Life Members are pre-empted from renewal notices.) That’s an average of 16,666 members per month scheduled to receive their first dues notices in their mailboxes. Let’s say half respond right away. The next month, the remaining 8,333 members will receive their second dues notices, plus another 16,666 will receive their first. Again, assume a quick 50 percent response. The following month, 4,166 members will receive their third notices, 8,333 will receive their second, and another 16,666 will receive their first. And so on.

Now imagine the complexities when members wait even a few weeks to respond! If you want to do the most for elk country, renew right away.

RMEF sends a series of five renewal notices before we finally give up (it’s far more cost-effective to keep existing members than to recruit new ones), and we know lots of pieces end up crossing in the mail. It’s easy math to see how resources and expenses can compound daily.

However, all of this gets much faster, easier and cheaper—which ultimately means more dollars for the RMEF mission—when members simply renew online. Next time you visit www.rmef.org, please take time to renew. Even if you’re paid up for a few more months, go ahead and add another year to your membership. It’s just good conservation.

Going forward, you’ll see RMEF attempting to move more and more of these transactions online. But there will always be a friendly RMEF voice to help if you’d rather do it by phone. Just call 800-225-5355, Monday through Friday, 8-5 Mountain Time. Or email membership@rmef.org.

As a member, you’re well aware that Bugle isn’t the only mail you receive from RMEF. Our first-class flagship magazine is just one of the communications that we stamp, seal and send to help keep you inspired and engaged in elk country and our way
of life.

Don’t think of that other stuff as “junk mail.” Gasp! Instead, consider it an opportunity—a mature bull, standing broadside within easy range, grazing quietly in the last glow of closing day—to be part of a movement that matters more as time marches on.

More Mail = More Mission

In the first five years of RMEF’s national sweepstakes program, the equation has been simple enough to follow. Offer more pr
izes, award more winners, make it more fun—and RMEF members are more than happy to step up for the cause.

In 2013, RMEF ventured into its first national sweepstakes. Members were asked for a small donation in exchange for a chance to win some hunting items. By 2017, sweepstakes prizes included utility vehicles, rifles and other firearms, bows, hunts, trips, cash, premium optics, wall tents and more. Proceeds for conservation work in elk country have tripled!

Thanks to all who participate in these vital fundraisers.

Watch your mailbox and www.rmef.org for more special sweepstakes campaigns in 2018!