Case Study: Building a Donor Base Through E-mail, Part 2
[Editor's note: This part 2 of a two-part series about the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview working with KMA, the branch of full-service fundraising agency Pursuant Group, to build a donor base through e-mail. View part 1 here.]
Monthly giving incentive
After KMA and the Colson Center confirmed that the long-form e-mail would remain the control, they looked for ways to get even more commitment out of donors and supporters. As it turns out, the Colson Center produced a really compelling, engaging ethics DVD series called "Doing the Right Thing."
"This is a really cool product. It has tremendous application to this audience," says Tim Kachuriak, senior vice president of innovation and optimization at Pursuant Group. "[The Colson Center] said, 'Let's offer this to our members and our e-mail subscribers for a special price.'
"We said, 'We should probably do that, but let's first use this as an opportunity to get people to sign up at a higher level.'"
That led to the creation of a new membership level that KMA and the Colson Center dubbed the Sustaining Membership Program. The six-part DVD series was used as a catalyst to get people to sign up for this monthly giving program. It was offered as a premium for signing up to the Sustaining Membership Program, which required the donor the make a monthly commitment of at least $25 per month. "Doing the Right Thing" was the gift donors received for signing up, which Kachuriak says has about a $90 value.
Then, as a follow-up, donors who did not sign up for the monthly giving program were offered a one-time opportunity to purchase the DVD series at a special price, bringing in more money and keeping non-monthly donors engaged.
"We were able to get significantly greater value for the ministry in terms of member donations by offering the DVD series as a premium as opposed to offering it purely as a product," Kachuriak says.
As a result of these e-mail initiatives, the Colson Center rapidly grew its e-mail program and donor base. With the help of KMA, the ministry was able to:
- generate an e-mail response rate that is 513 percent better than the 2011 Convio Nonprofit Industry Benchmark E-Appeal Response Rate;
- increase e-mail revenue by 44.8 percent for the Colson Center;
- increase revenue by 426 percent of products by placing them as premiums as opposed to stand-alone products at a fixed price; and
- grow the monthly giving program — more than 10 percent of all Colson Center donors are sustaining or recurring donors.
Key to that success was the collaborative relationship between the organization and the agency, Kachuriak says.
"[The folks at the Colson Center] had a will and a desire to never be satisfied with adequacy because they recognized that adequacy is the enemy of excellence," he explains. "They gave us the freedom and liberty to test and to continue to optimize their program through experimentation.
"If there's one thing that I think nonprofits lack, it's the will and desire to take measurable risks. Taking risks is really what leads to some of the greatest advancements in the world of fundraising, but also the greatest opportunities for nonprofits to rise about just the ho-hum industry benchmarks," Kachuriak adds.
Kachuriak says there are two key takeaways that were unearthed from this partnership:
- Testing trumps marketing intuition. "One of the things I'm constantly surprised at … is that when we test things, we find out that best practices aren't best practices at all. That's what's exciting — to redefine those things by seeing how people interact with our communications," he says. "That's really what's so fun about the online side of things. WE have so much data, so many different attributes that we can test and we can learn not from focus groups or a survey but by watching how people interact directly with the conversion path that we've put before them."
- Humility is the key to marketing success. "If I think that I have all the answers, then that's usually when I find out that I'm dead wrong," Kachuriak says. "We try to empower clients to think like that as well. It's when we're partners and not a vendor and a nonprofit where we can both have the most success."