American Cancer Society Rethinks Legacy Direct Mail Acquisition, Conversion Efforts
As the Society prepared for 2013 and reviewed strategies and budgets, its executives created a new process for ensuring it was laser focused on only the best and most effective fundraising strategies and mission-delivery programs. Every mission program and every fundraising program had to pass a very strict set of requirements to be considered a part of the 2013 plan of work from coast to coast. While much more complicated than what you'll read below, the basic requirements were very specific.
- The Society is reorienting to a complete bottom-line mentality across all operating areas. For fundraising programs, the bottom line is viewed from the perspective of cost and yield. For mission programs, the bottom line is viewed from the perspective of efficacy and prioritization in order to save the most lives as quickly as possible. As a $900 million organization with more than 2.6 million volunteers and 5.9 million donors each year, looking across the full revenue portfolio was especially critical. When looking at the traditional metric of Cost per Dollar Raised (CPDR), some programs clearly seemed like better, more responsible investments for the future than others.
- Additionally, the Society enjoys the Wise Giving Seal from the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance and already has industry-standard ratios of revenue to expenses. However, staff and volunteer leaders are not satisfied with the status quo. The organization has made a commitment to significantly reduce that ratio in order to apply more resources to its life-saving mission. Greater net means the opportunity for the Society to apply more funds to the fight to save lives. For this organization, it is as simple as that — and it is hard to argue with.
- The Society wants to remain relevant and drive the greatest exposure to the audience that has the greatest need and/or the greatest opportunity to support the mission. All programs were reviewed relative to the audience and how they aligned with consumer priorities already identified. Furthermore, operating strategies were reviewed using data to determine if they truly enabled the Society to reach a new target market or reach a current market segment more effectively. In an effort to ensure relevance in an ever-changing marketplace, the Society also asked how programs met constituent needs and if they drove long-term constituent value. Of special note is that the organization is very unique in how it raises money. Unlike many nonprofits, it raises $477 million each year through community engagement events and $114 million through planned giving — nearly 67 percent of its total revenue — and only 6 percent through direct mail. Therefore, when reviewing the audiences and priorities, the special event audience, for example, is the largest market segment within the organization and, as you will read below, is very different than the much smaller direct mail audience.
- The Society has always strived to ensure its 100-year-old brand is held with the highest regard. Because of this long-standing view and the accompanying desire to mitigate brand risk, programs were reviewed to make sure they still aligned with the ideals and expectations of the organization overall. For fundraising programs, of special attention is the current environment with the various charitable watchdog entities, as well as the overall consumer tolerance for fundraising expenses that may be seen as disproportionate.
As you have guessed by now, parts of the direct mail program were heavily discussed relative to the requirements described above. The decision to ultimately remove acquisition and conversion direct mail from the revenue portfolio was not a simple or easy one. And, while this article is specific to the direct mail decisions, this process created similar decisions in other areas of the organization. As we all know, change is hard — but it is required for success.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.