[Editor's note: Last month, the Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA) held its annual Package of the Year Awards luncheon to honor the winning packages. Through the end of the year, FundRaising Success will highlight some of the winners here in Today in Fundraising.]
What happens when the original urgency of your mission diminishes slightly over time because your organization is doing such an effective job in achieving said mission? How do you continue to pique the interest of donors and get them to renew their support?
That's the situation amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research found itself in.
"When we do our job, we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot fundraising-wise," says Valerie Vierengel, manager of individual giving at amfAR. "AIDS/HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was, so it makes the case for support kind of hard — it's no longer an enemy in the same sense."
On top of that, amfAR's name recognition has dwindled over the years, and acquisition list marketing is showing signs of saturation, making it all the more vital for the organization dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research to renew its donors.
For most organizations, that means digging up one of the best and most compelling, emotional stories to center a renewal campaign around. However, that wasn't a clear-cut choice for amfAR. Historically, stories don't work well in fundraising appeals for the organization, Vierengel says, because its constituents are what amfAR calls the "affected and effected" of the disease. They are more interested in learning about new drugs and research to combat AIDS/HIV in fundraising appeals as opposed to the individual, personal stories most fundraisers rely on.
However, with ambitious goals and the organization at a bit of a crossroads, amfAR decided to roll the dice and gamble on a story for its renewal letter copy, straying from its typical research angle. So in its December 2011 renewal appeal, which was named co-Renewal Package of the Year by the Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association along with Helen Keller International, amfAR told the story of family in which the mother and her children are afflicted with AIDS.
Working with John Mini Consulting on the direct-mail package, amfAR increased its personalization and decided to mail this more emotional appeal to long-lapsed donor segments along with its more active donors. And it made a substantial push on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) for the campaign.
As it turned out, the year-end gamble on the story of a family with AIDS paid off big time for amfAR. The December 2011 renewal campaign increased response by 25.5 percent and income by 30 percent over 2010, proving that taking a calculated risk can truly make a difference.