Cover Story: Feeding the Need
The bulk of the energy — and money — went into acquiring new donors. Before enhancing its acquisition program, A2H was attracting 27,000 new donors each year. At last count, that number was up to about 70,000.
“We decided to implement this quickly, instead of stepping in over a number of years, because we wanted to get people into our bonding and cultivation programs as quickly as possible, knowing that would drive the long-term value of the file,” he says.
The cost of such an aggressive effort? A2H spent $3 million to acquire 70,000 new donors in FY2003.
“We were able to drive our cost per response down by $5 ($43 versus $48), which was great, “ he says.
Terri Shoemaker, manager of direct marketing at A2H, explains that the new approach began with breaking some old habits.
“We built our [direct marketing] program from the ground up starting in the mid-1980s and had the same direct marketing consultants for more than 10 years,” she says. “And while that relationship provided us with a great file and a very cost-effective program, we found ourselves bogged down with our own historical approaches to things.
“We decided to put out an RFP to see if there was a new way of thinking that would help us move the program forward instead of living with the status quo,” she adds.
With the help of the Seattle-based Domain Group, A2H revamped its mail schedule and widened its approach to include other direct marketing venues.
“For the first time, we formalized our Web and e-mail solicitation program [and] ventured into telemarketing,” Shoemaker explains.
Delany agrees that direct marketing fundraising at A2H shriveled due to a combination of complacency and shortsightedness.
“It fell off because there was a level of comfort there, and then when you really started to analyze what was going on, you saw some trends that were not things that you wanted to let go on for the health of the organization,” he says. “The biggest thing is that we were working with a small number of institutional donors who came in with large gifts.”