In my last blog post, “Is It Better or Worse to Send More Appeals?,” I acknowledged that sending multiple appeals to donors can raise more money for your organization, if you do it right. However, I also recognized that determining the correct number of appeals, raises more questions than answers.
Some organizations are not appealing enough while others are sending too many solicitations. As you might imagine, the post inspired a lively conversation in the comments section and in a number of discussion groups on LinkedIn.
One of the last comments I received came from Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant. Her insights and recommendations were on target and excellent. Because I did not want readers to miss what Erica had to say, I decided to share her message with you as a guest blog post. In turn, she was kind enough to add some additional material from her own blog:
I love this discussion. Super!
Whenever I present a webinar, I ask the question: how many times do you appeal to your donors. The answer typically is once, twice, maybe four times a year, if you’re lucky. Very rarely is it more than that. Now, these are usually the smaller organizations.
When I ask those same nonprofits what their retention rates are, they’re usually around the median, 43 percent.
When I ask those same nonprofits what they do with donors who just gave, the answer typically is, we’ll take those out of the next mailing of course.
When I ask them how deep they mail into their lapsed donors, they typically cut that off at three years. In other words, if someone has not responded in three years, they’ll never receive mail again.
I have extensively tested the following over the years:
1. Always include those donors who just gave to you in the next appeal. Many of them will give again, especially if you have a great appeal that hits on all cylinders, namely, you thank them, you show them the impact of their donation, you have a great story and a good call to action.
I’ve seen, time and time again, that this is the best responsive group. Recency, Frequency Monetary Value has not become the standard in segmentation for nothing.
2. Always include your lapsed donors in your appeal at least once a year, preferably in the fall/holiday appeal time frame. With the National Change of Address required by the post office, you’ll know you’re mailing to mailable addresses.
I’ve seen time and time again that this group responds at higher levels than a prospecting/acquisition campaign.
Michael’s numbers are correct: for acquisition of new donors, in fact, in some cases they might even be a bit worse, like perhaps $2.00 to $3.00 to raise $1.00.
BUT, when you bring these new donors in and you mail them as donors, you’re typically looking at $0.20 to raise a dollar. That means, you’re investing $1,000 to get $5,000 back. Where do you find that in the stock market?
Not to mention the opportunity to convert these donors to give monthly and upgrade them (and certainly increase their retention rates further that way, leading up to the ultimate gift down the road since monthly donors are seven times more likely to leave you in their will).
What I typically see with small organization: if your appeals don’t work, you may not mail enough, or not mail to the right donors, or you may have spent too much money on your direct mail and it’s not looking like a letter any longer.
Direct mail letters still work, but it’s all about which donors you target.
And if you have the right stories and the right mix of gratefulness and love for your donor, you can send them as many appeals as you’d like and they’ll respond every time.
Speaking of monthly donors, a question fundraisers often ask me, is:
Can I send appeals to my monthly donors?”