Base Connect Responds To My Critique Of The Direct Mail Business

The other week — without mentioning any names — I wrote a general critique of the direct mail fundraising business.

Today, Kimberly Bellissimo, the founder of the controversial direct mail firm, Base Connect, has responded. (Note: Traveling in conservative circles, I have known Bellissimo for years, going back to the days when her firm was called BMW Direct.)

I won’t get into a full fisking here, but, suffice it to say her response warrants a response, inasmuch as it misrepresents some of what I actually wrote.

Consider this from Bellissimo: “The purpose of prospect mail is not to ‘break even’ as Mr. Lewis writes. The purpose of direct mail is to build a house file that nets large amounts of money. “

Okay… Now what I actually wrote: “The goal is to break even on prospect letters (to donors who have given to candidates or causes similar to yours) and make money on house file letters (to people who have already donated to your candidate or cause).”

This represents one of her foundational criticisms, and yet, as far as I can tell, we are in agreement. We both believe prospect mail is a necessary step toward growing a house file — and that the house file should then net money. I suppose the difference here is that she thinks prospect mail should always lose money, and I think you ought to at least try to break even?

So what’s her real beef? Why would someone take it upon themselves to write a rebuttal to something that doesn’t even mention them (granted, I linked to a news report that did mention them)? Call it damage control:

I can only imagine things like this have spooked them, and that a PR campaign has been launched to push back at even a hint of criticism.

Still, I’m not sure such a response does them any favors. It is perhaps instructive that the two most prominent candidates she cites to buttress her case are Sharron Angle and Allen West.

That pretty much says it all.