Ask Yourself About Your ‘Ask’
For any fundraising appeal, the ask string is critical in communicating your financial needs to a potential donor, large or small. For the Nature Conservancy, an aggressive direct mail tester of new creative concepts, copy approaches and formats, ask-string modeling has made the one-to-one dialogue with prospects much more relevant.
“Ask-string modeling identifies individuals with the means to give and their philanthropic tendencies,” says Lisa Steen, senior fundraising manager for new-member acquisition. The Nature Conservancy mails 22 million to 24 million pieces and attracts 250,000 new members annually. “The technique helps acquire donors at a substantially higher first gift with potential to upgrade more quickly and creates a pipleline of valuable prospects for major gifts and planned giving,” she adds.
For its key model variables, the Nature Conservancy used income and wealth indicators, gift frequency, affinity, recency and average gift amounts to other organizations.
In FY04, the organization’s basic control package pulled in an average gift of $19.69; with ask-string modeling, that number rose by 116 percent to $42.59. For those donors who responded to the former control, 14.63 percent of them remained active donors after 12 months. But for the package employing ask-string modeling, 22.88 percent of the donors kept giving after 12 months.
Before testing ask-string modeling, Steen advises organizations to consider mission goals, priority (member count, average gift, cost savings, etc.) level of investment, risk level and what’s happening in the market.
To view some of Nature Conservancy’s direct mail packages, visit http://www.whosmailingwhat.com.