St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa Foun­da­tion: One Song’ direct mail

Exhibited by
John Lepp
November 22, 2023
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Individual donors
Type of Charity
Assisted living and respite care
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

The ‘One Song’ appeal is a warm direct mail pack that has it all. The campaign features great copy alongside simple and effective design, but perhaps most importantly, it starts a beautiful conversation with the donor.

The resultant donations and emotional responses from supporters of St. Pat’s are testament to the fact that taking time to craft a special appeal can really pay off. Dive in and get inspired before writing your next appeal – because these are the basics of good fundraising, done well.


St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa Foundation (also known as St Pat’s) is a lovely long-term home and an important part of the community in Ontario, Canada. As a ‘brand’ they have always understood that they serve their residents and their families in the most loving and supportive way they can, and that donors are an important part of that being able to happen.

The fundraising team at St. Pat’s has also always understood that it isn’t about what they (the Foundation) does, it’s about what you (the donor) make possible. This organisation lives and breathes that.

Creator / originator

Agents of Good

Summary / objectives

Along with the team at St. Pat’s of Ottawa, we developed the following direct mail appeal to send to their warm donors. It focused on the importance of their music programme and how the donor could give a gift that would help enrich the lives of residents through music.

Special characteristics

The pack begins with an outer envelope featuring the tagline:

‘All it takes is 1 song to bring back 1000 memories…’

Then, once inside the appeal has a two-page letter. The front page of the letter begins with a quote that will get the donor thinking about why one song can be so precious to a person.

‘Sometimes it’s not the song that makes you emotional, it’s the people and things that come to your mind when you hear it.’ – Unknown

This is followed by carefully crafted copy. The copy makes sure to include some things that are key to a great fundraising letter:

  1. It focuses on what the problem is
  2. It articulates the solution and how donors can be a part of that
  3. It states what the donor can do and why they should do it right now.

On the reverse of the letter, Ruth, the signatory (Executive Director of St. Pat’s of Ottawa), ensures that she:

  1. Reiterates the problem
  2. Specifies how donors can be part of the solution
  3. Identifies what can be done right now to help.

For the all-important reply form, we used segmentation to create gift options tailored to the donor’s previous giving. It’s such a small thing, but it shows the donor you know them – we call this ‘donor love’.

The reply form also included a short wish list of items to demonstrate what the donor would help accomplish with different levels of giving – and made sure to leave some space on the back for donors to add their voice.

Lastly, we added a small lift note to share some voices from St. Pat’s who explain (in their own words) how important the music programme is to residents. This is a perfect example of where to use some of that extra emotional content you get during an interview but can’t use in the letter.

A lift note can give it a home. It all adds to the case for support, and your donor has further proof of why this programme is so important.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can click on the images to read the full copy for all the pieces included in this direct mail pack.


This warm direct mail appeal brought in double the revenue that St. Pat’s expected and shattered the goals of all their previous spring appeals. They also received five gifts of CA$1,000 or more! This was a big deal for an organisation like St. Pat’s.

Ruth and her team at St. Pat’s had the delightful job of calling their donors. They thanked them for their gifts and for sharing their songs. They were able to have joyful, wonderful conversations about music and memories. And best of all, they were able to invite their donors to join a special concert that was to be put on for all the amazing and generous supporters.


It is so important to give your donors a way to talk back to your organisation. And this isn’t something you should just do at Christmas – you should do this all year round.

Direct response is a conversation, and it can be powerful when you ask emotional questions of your donors. Emotional questions receive emotional responses. In fact, here are some of the responses that St. Pat’s received from this warm direct mail appeal:

‘My mother’s best loved song was “Deep Purple”. She would play it on the piano every night while my father was overseas in the war. Her name was Pauline.’
‘Many years ago my boyfriend asked me out to dinner and a movie. The movie was “Gigi”, introducing the song “I Thank Heaven for Little Girls”. I think the movie or the song inspired him to propose that very evening. Even after it was ‘our song’ and I was his ‘little girl’. Many years later when our only daughter was planning her wedding reception, she asked if there was any song that we would like to have played. We suggested ‘you know what’ and she exclaimed, “ah that’s so sweet”, thinking of course it referred to her. Of course, come to think of it, she really always was and always will be ‘our little girl’.’

Influence / impact

The day after this appeal landed in donor mailboxes, Ruth (the Executive Director at St. Pat’s) was sitting at her desk when a knock came at the door. A woman she’d never seen before was holding the torn-open appeal in her hands. She said to Ruth:

‘I felt compelled to drive here and see you. You moved me.’

She sat down and told Ruth that as she was reading our letter, she heard music playing in her head. She heard old Irish lullabies that her mother used to sing her, songs her parents loved and would play at home. She was reflecting on just how much that music had mean to her, all her life.

The lady asked about the therapy programme and what the residents said about it. She’d lost her dad, and he had always been a proud supporter of many Irish Catholic charities, including St. Pat’s. Then she said:

‘I’ve been thinking about making a more significant gift to something important, that really matters to me, but I didn’t know what that was until today. Would it be okay if I wrote you a cheque for all $20,000 right now and fund the whole programme?’

It was an amazing moment, not least because after the lady left, Ruth looked her up on the donor database and the lady who came to her office had been a lapsed donor, who hadn’t given in three years. Her previous gifts had totalled about CA$600.

Final notes

This is the stuff fundraising dreams are made of. It is an appeal that brought in the warm cash donations needed, started conversations with donors and inspired legacy conversations too!

It is a classic example of an appeal that answers these two questions very well:

  1. Why me (the donor)?
  2. Why now?

It also gave the donor lots of space to be a part of the story – through great branding and great storytelling.

When you give donors compelling reasons to help you, when you actively ask for and listen to their stories and let them share their values with you, when you get out of the way and make giving as easy as possible – amazing and beautiful things like the results and responses to this appeal, will happen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This case study has been adapted from John Lepp’s latest book, Creative Deviations. You can find it in ‘Deviation One – Forget About Your Logo’.

IMAGES: © All images courtesy of St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa Foundation and Agents of Good

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St. Pat’s Home believes that music has the power to transport us and connect us, to the milestones and the seasons of our lives. It bonds us to our past, present and each other.
The donor is instantly thinking of, and hearing, a tune. (Click to see a hi-res version of the envelope.)
The letter begins with a moving quote that reminds the donor why one song can be so important to one person. (Click the image to read a hi-res version of the letter copy.)
The reverse of the two-page letter reiterates the problem and how the donor can be part of the solution – now. (Click the image to read a hi-res version of the letter copy.)
The front of the reply form features three suggested gift amounts, tailored to the donor’s previous giving. (Click the image to read a hi-res version of the reply form.)
The reverse of the reply form had a space for the donor to share a song that meant something special to them. (Click the image to read a hi-res version of the reply form.)
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Many donors replied to the appeal, sharing the song or music that brings back their own cherished memories.
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Music is part of daily life at St. Patrick’s Home – for its therapeutic benefits and the joy it brings to all.