Conference Corner: Mining for New Donors: Think Outside Your Universe
Acquisition means bringing in new donors, as many as possible. But with donor-list universes shrinking and the cost of acquisition rising, fundraisers are left in quite a quandary.
Chris Ragusa, CFRE, president of New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Estee Marketing Group, advises to test non-donor files that are similar to your donor profile, e.g., age, income level, interests, etc. Many nonprofits have found success with magazine and catalog files, merchandise-buyer lists and enhanced-response databases.
“List selections can help to control list performance,” Ragusa asserted at the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation’s 2004 Conference. “Choose lists that will suit your appeal and offer — membership, emergency donations, monthly giving, religious and/or devotional.”
When targeting new audiences, test as many lists as is feasible but each with as small a quantity as you can. Roughly 5 percent to 15 percent of your net mailing should be tests, Ragusa says, and if a certain list has a very close affinity with your housefile, increase the test quantity to make up for low net in the merge.
Also, Ragusa advises nonprofits to consider the pros and cons of exchanging housefiles to attract new donors. “Exchanging can allow you access to better lists, and some lists are only available on exchange,” she says, “but exchanges have to be constantly monitored and audited, and when you exchange, you lose list-rental income.”
Swapping lists often is “apples for oranges,” not “apples for apples,” thus exchanging restricts higher usage by one mailer over the other. Ragusa says a nonprofit must maintain the exchange balances and know when to cease an exchange relationship.