Giving Donors Power Pushes Up Giving
An amazing thing happened when we decided to give our mid-level donors power — revenue soared. And so did gift frequency and donor loyalty.
It all began when we started to treat donors like the “owners” of CARE they truly are. We gave them choices and direct access to senior staff at CARE. We honored their wishes. The results have been extremely gratifying.
Our first step was to target a group of donors who had given cumulatively $1,000 or more within a two-year period. Next, we assigned each of these donors a personal representative at CARE who would be available for their questions — our version of a personal banker or personal shopper. For the first time, these valuable donors had the name, telephone number and e-mail address of someone they could contact directly with their concerns or questions.
We then overhauled our direct mail appeals to this audience — higher quality paper stock for some mailings, personalized suggested gift amounts, occasional live stamps on return envelopes, and even handwritten notes on some letters and outer envelopes.
We also introduced more sophisticated and in-depth appeals, believing that information on specific needs and successful accomplishments would fuel the donors’ passion for our cause.
We made sure our back-end thank-you operation was fine tuned to increase affirmation and personalization, and we assigned three staff members to personally call each donor who gave a single gift of $500 or more. At the same time, we introduced milestone recognition contacts to alert donors when they reached a significant financial threshold.
Recognizing that donors who experience our work overseas are more fully bonded to our mission, both emotionally and intellectually, we introduced a process that would regularly alert donors to travel opportunities. We also began inviting these special donors to regional events here in the United States, where they could learn more about our work and meet some of our key leadership staff.
For new donors who qualified for this mid-level program by giving the minimum cumulative amount of $1,000, we enhanced the introduction package and placed a welcome telephone call.
Finally, we invited select donors to participate in live call-in conference calls with Peter Bell, CARE’s president.
The tangible results speak for themselves. Over the past two years, the giving frequency of this donor audience has risen 28 percent to 3.7 gifts per year from 2.9. Annual revenue per donor has increased 24 percent to $1,590 from $1,282. Most importantly, overall revenue from this mid-level group of donors — an audience of about 3,600 donors — increased to just under $6 million from $3.3 million.
(These results compare FY 2004, ending June 30, 2004, with FY 2002 when the special treatment program began in earnest. Because some donors have graduated into higher-end giving groups at CARE, and others have moved back into the general donor file, a precise comparison of performance is not possible.)
Brian Cowart is the director of direct marketing for CARE, the international humanitarian organization. He supervises all fundraising efforts from new-donor acquisition through ongoing cultivation and upgrading of donors. Brian can be reached at 404.979.9162 or via e-mail at email@example.com.