Cover Story: Lives in the Balance
“As we pay attention to patterns increasingly here, that’s affecting how we mail. So if a person shows a pattern of only giving once a year, we’re probably going to begin to mail them somewhat less frequently,” Hicks says. “We’re looking at patterns and donors’ wishes. Again, the ultimate determinant of how we correspond to the donor or develop a relationship with a donor is in the hands of the donor.
“If they show (the) potential or proclivity to give at that $5,000 level, and they want a personal relationship with one of our professional fundraisers, then that’s the way we’ll deal with them,” he adds. “If they prefer to have a Web-based relationship with CARE, then that’s the way we’ll deal with them. Ultimately, we think that the more donor responsive we are, the better service the donor will get, the happier the donor will be with us, and therefore they’ll stay with us longer and support us at higher levels.”
The importance of a solid mid-level plan hasn’t escaped the development strategists at CARE. Those gifts of $1,000 or $2,000 a year not only add up very quickly, but they are relatively inexpensive to cultivate, and they represent the bulk of the unrestricted donations that give CARE the leeway to be innovative with its programming.
“Naturally, as donors move up into the major-gifts realm, I think the challenge becomes to keep the relationship one where they’re growing with us and interested in other programs but then, obviously, the cost of the relationship changes quite a bit with those major donors,” Hicks says. “That’s why the nature of the mid-level program is pretty important for us.”
Success all around
Over the years, CARE has managed to establish and maintain a workable balance among the channels within its development program, which has meant steady growth. In FY 2005, which of course includes a numbers-skewing spike after the tsunami, CARE took in $144 million. Of that, direct marketing was responsible for $43 ($31 million unrestricted); major gifts, $64 million; planned giving, $10 million; and other sources, which includes the Web, $26 million.