Spinning Date Into Donor Gold
With a languishing donor-acquisition program and shrinking applicable-list universes, Catholic Relief Services prudently mined its own data in search of answers.
And for good reason.
The 61-year-old international-relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community relies heavily on the private sector for donations; in 2003, CRS netted $484 million, 20 percent of which came from private-cash contributions. What’s more, the organization’s direct-response fundraising program accounts for roughly 50 percent of all donations from private contributors.
“We have spent a lot of time working in a mature-donor market, recognizing that some of our efforts have not performed nearly as well over time, as we have seen response rates steadily decline, particularly in acquisition,” says Kevin Whorton, director of direct response fund-raising for CRS.
“We’ve still been able to eke out some reasonable increases, year by year, but it’s really made us focus on issues like data management to be able to maintain a good fundraising performance,” he explains.
Despite drawing 80,000 to 90,000 new donors a year with an average gift of $32, CRS placed considerable emphasis on its data and partnered with Newburyport, Mass.-based analytics-software provider Genalytics to streamline its prospecting appeals. Using sophisticated modeling, the organization focused on top segments of the file rather than the entire universe, suppressed mailing to the bottom segments, and discovered significant numbers of new prospects similar to existing donors.
“Our direct mail acquisition program is very mission focused. We don’t do premiums at all,” Whorton notes. “So we knew we had to focus more on higher segments [of the file], in terms of likelihood of giving.”
But the biggest benefit for CRS, Whorton says, was to purge hardcore non-responders dwelling at the bottom of the file who clearly were annoyed, rather than engaged, by solicitations. The organization’s acquisition and retention efforts simply were based on outdated information.