Membership Has Its Privileges

Posted on Sunday Apr 1st at 12:23pm


The ball drops in Times Square, and next thing you know, Chez Seville is lousy with membership cards. Over the course of about six weeks, I received member/partner/supporter cards from 18 different organizations.

Huh, I thought, looks like an opportunity for a completely unscientific, limited study of what's going on in the world of membership cards.

Of the 18 packages, 14 were mailed in white No. 10 envelopes, eight of which had a large second window with the card showing through. One used a pistol window to show the card, and two others had a peekaboo window showing only part of the card. Two of the three No. 10s with a single addressing window said nothing about the card at all while the third teased: "2012 Partnership Card Enclosed."

Breaking away from the No. 10 pack, the USO mailed my card in a teaserless, closed-face, white 6-inch-by-9-inch, Native American Rights Fund(NARF) sent a four-color double window 6-inch-by-9-inch, the International Fund for Animal Welfare mailed a double window 6-inch-by-9.25-inch, and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) used a 4.5-inch-by-9-inch white envelope with an oversized addressing window but no teaser about the card.

Tally that all up, and 14 of the 18 mailers showed some or all of the card or teased about it. No surprising finding there. DAV's package included not only a membership card but also gold foil seals, a notepad, a four-color certificate with gold foil and a thank-you card, so it's understandable why DAV didn't plug the membership card.

The National Wildlife Federation, NARF and USO sent the most expensive cards, plastic and embossed with my name like a credit card, and DAV's was plastic but not embossed. The split between tipped-on cards and paper perf-outs was even at seven each. All but four of the cards were four-color. Ten cards were on the reply device, three attached to the letter, and five on forms that included both letter and reply.

What to do with the card?

"Please keep it as a reminder of the important role you've played …" "You can keep your partner card with you to let others know that you are taking action …" "Inside this package you'll find your personalized Membership Card for 2012 that I hope you will carry with you proudly." "Keep the card as a reminder of your commitment …" "Carry Your 2012 Card with Purpose." "Carry Your Card Proudly!" "PLEASE VALIDATE YOUR CARD TODAY BY SIGNING IT."

Many mailers indicated they sent the card in anticipation of my renewal but didn't tell me what to do with it. Some said nothing about the card at all.

But there were two genuine standouts: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and DAV.

ASPCA's four-page letter didn't mention the card at all. But on the reply beside the card, copy read, "Please complete the information on the back of your membership card and carry it with you at all times." On the back of the card, it read, "IMPORTANT NOTICE: PLEASE HELP MY PETS. I have pets in my home waiting for me. If for any reason I am unable to return home to care for my pets, please notify the following:"

This is one of those direct-mail moments when we call upon the willing suspension of disbelief, because if a law enforcement officer, rescue worker or medical professional is rifling through my wallet looking for emergency contact information, I'm pretty sure he's going to bypass my ASPCA membership card.

But kudos to ASPCA for giving the card more than the standard "carry it with pride" purposelessness.

A winning letter

DAV's package didn't tell me anything new to do with the card, but the letter rocks.

"Dear Kimberly,

"… did you know that almost 97% of Americans look the other way when we ask for help?

"As a DAV Supporter, you're in a truly elite group. You're the one who doesn't turn away … who hasn't forgotten the sacrifices our disabled vets made for you."

The letter thanked me on behalf of 3 million disabled vets — 131,776 of whom are right here in my state — and then invited me to join the Commanders Club.

"Its members are our top givers … the Americans with the best memories … who refuse to forget what our disabled vets did for them. In fact, the givers in your region are our best donors! Our Campaign Chairman, Gene Murphy, is very proud of your group from [State]."

Then later: "The campaign slogan is 'Never Quit'. You're no quitter either, Kimberly."

It wasn't until I'd been good and buttered up that we got to the card on page two.

"I've enclosed your 2012 Commanders Club Card and Certificate. To me, they're like little badges of honor. They tell everyone who sees them that you are on our side … replacing despair and discouragement with new hope and opportunities for the men and women who fought for us."

The postscript closed up the letter with a couple of twists on the usual lines, hyping the unusually special nature of DAV's card:

"P.S. I've enclosed a Certificate and a 2012 Collector's Edition of our Commanders Club card. If you join, put the certificate where everyone can see it. It's a badge of honor that sets you apart from the other 97% of Americans who choose to look the other way when we ask for help. And the card? Carry it proudly. It's our New Commemorative Collector's Edition. It's distinctive — just like you!"

So what's to learn from all this?

Is your membership card offer performing well, or is response falling off? If you've always mailed your member/partner/supporter card offer early in the new year when "everybody's doing it," try testing timing.

When's the last time you tested formats? Card on the letter versus card on the reply, No. 10 versus any other size, membership card alone versus with a certificate (and/or labels, and/or note cards, and/or notepads, etc.), perf-out versus tip-on versus lasered plastic versus embossed plastic, etc.? And images matter, as many test results have proven, so testing card designs should be in the mix. With so much competition, testing has to be a huge priority. FS

Kimberly Seville


is a creative strategist and freelance copywriter. Reach her at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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