The Multichannel Renewal Campaign

A waterdrop falling down into the rippled colored water.

A waterdrop falling down into the rippled colored water.

If you don't have a renewal plan in place, you're missing the boat big time.

A fundamental or “bedrock” element of all annual giving programs — regardless of type of organization — is the annual renewal effort. In most organizations, the renewal effort accounts for as much as 80 percent of all net income.

No wonder. The concept of renewal is so powerful because it focuses on the donor’s sense of responsibility and accountability. Implicit is the tacit understanding in the donor’s psyche that “I made a commitment to support this organization last year, and now it’s time to renew that commitment.”

No matter what other programs you currently have in place, if you don’t have a renewal channel — and especially a multichannel program — you’re missing the boat big time. So, let’s start by looking at an ideal renewal framework and then move to the multichannel dimensions.

Basic framework

If you have a life insurance policy, subscribe to a magazine or belong to a club, chances are you participate in one or more renewal efforts on the for-profit side of your life. Nonprofit renewal programs work on the same dynamics. The key characteristics:

  • Renewal efforts should be designed to operate separately from all other promotional efforts. By this I don’t mean ignoring other programs. Rather, the renewal effort has a life of its own with a message stream and schedule designed for a single purpose: to renew the basic annual support gift.
  • Renewal efforts are, well, efforts. Plural. As in Renewal Notice No. 1, Renewal Notice No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, and on to even No. 10 or No. 12. The general rule is that as long as you’re renewing an existing donor at the same or lower cost than you spend to acquire a new donor, keep doing it.
  • Renewal efforts are, in many ways, successful exercises in billing and collection. Of course, there’s no obligation on the part of donors to renew their annual support. But remember, you have an implicit obligation of responsibility and accountability working for you in the donor’s mind. And, often, all that obligation needs to trigger it into life is a “reminder,” as in a renewal notice indicating that the time has come to once again re-up support for the cause. This is why so many renewal efforts take on the appearance of invoices or statements.
  • Renewal efforts operate on proven principles and formulae. In addition to using the format of an invoice or statement in many of your renewal notices, experiment with the use of long and short copy to accompany the notices. While a simple, one-sheet invoice with nothing else may work quite well, often a bit more is required. Test. Test a short vs. longer message. Regardless of the length, the essential message ingredients in a renewal notice involve both past and present: Tell them what their gifts made possible over the past year; then outline the challenges ahead making the case for why continued support in the coming year is so important.
  • Renewal efforts are great opportunities for upgrading, showcasing accomplishments and letting donors know they’re not alone. A fundamental need that must be met in all fundraising lies in answering the questions: Why do you need my contribution? Did it make a difference? The renewal series is the ideal platform for answering those questions plus reinforcing the case for support by not only showing what the contributions helped accomplish, but also highlighting some of the donors and volunteers who made a difference.

In short, “yes, your annual support really does matter, and you’re not the only one who feels that way and is acting on those feelings.”

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