Part of me is definitely a fan of conventional wisdom. Come on. What’s not to like about wisdom?
On the other hand, part of me hates the notion that we should continue doing things because that’s the way they’ve always been done. All too often, conventional is code for mediocre.
In other words, I think it’s wise to regularly challenge conventional wisdom, so long as we do so thoughtfully and preferably with good data.
So, being a good fundraising nerd, I enjoyed reading a number of articles this week that explore how often charities should send appeals to donors.
Let’s start with the conventional wisdom:
The more appeals you send, the more money you will raise.
Andrew Olsen, CFRE, Vice President of Client Services at the Russ Reid Agency, tested the conventional wisdom. In his blog post “Fundraising Myth Busters: Solicitation Frequency,” Olsen concludes, “Don’t be afraid to add a solicitation or two to your annual line up. As this case shows, you stand to make a lot more money for your cause if you do!”
In his post, Olsen shared testing that was done for two nonprofit organizations:
- In the first case, the organization went from five to 10 solicitations, and year-over-year revenue increased 123 percent.
- The second organization increased from three to six solicitations, and year-over-year revenue increased 110 percent.
Given that the highly respected Russ Reid Agency conducted the tests, I had to take notice. However, Olsen’s post raised more questions for me than it answered:
- While gross revenue increased in both test cases, did net revenue increase significantly?
- What impact does increasing the number of appeals have on long-term donor retention?
- How does increasing the number of appeals impact donor Lifetime Value (LTV).
- If revenue went up, why stop at six or even 10 appeals? Why not send an appeal out monthly, weekly, daily, hourly? When should we stop?
With these questions nagging at me, I was relieved to see that direct-response guru Roger Craver wrote a four-part series on the subject for The Agitator blog (Note: The Agitator is now a paid subscription site.).
Craver looked at solicitation frequency a bit more closely than Olsen did. For example, he reported that the net income from successive appeals goes down after a point. He also showed evidence that some donors on a file are more receptive than others to multiple appeals. While not surprising, it is nice to see the data on this and have a chance to reflect on how screening for solicitation-frequency preference can affect net revenue. Craver shows that sending fewer appeals, particularly to certain individuals, can lead to greater net income.