FOCUS ON AUDITS Don't Be Afraid of the A-wordUnlike the tax v
Unlike the tax v
By MAURA SZENDEY and BRYAN TERPSTRA
For most of us, when we hear the word "audit," our gut instinct is to run and hide. We've been trained to think an audit means a review of our finances, and sometimes that can be downright scary!
But there are other types of audits that can be a lot less stressful and have a big impact on your bottom line. There are two common, basic audits, for example, to help evaluate the annual performance of a direct marketing program: a creative audit and a file audit.
For nonprofits with mail programs that raise more than $1 million or so, these types of audits are well known. These organizations need a systematic approach to assessing mail programs each year, and both of these audits fit the bill. In most cases, however, with a modest investment of time and money, almost all nonprofits can work with their direct marketing agencies to conduct these types of audits.
Great direct mail fundraising campaigns usually are the marriage of sound strategic thinking and good creative execution. You need both to be successful. A well-run creative audit should help uncover new approaches that ultimately can lead to improvements in both donor acquisition and retention.
In a creative audit, staff at the nonprofit and its agency partner work together closely. In general, the process involves three steps: the exploratory phase, brainstorm phase and judgment phase.
Exploratory phaseIn this step, the agency working with the nonprofit gathers and
displays all of the organization's direct mail packages for the year in a conference room. Results of each campaign accompany the samples.
Over the course of several days, everyone at the agency involved in the audit (typically key senior creative, client service and production staff) review each direct mail campaign carefully. They read through the letters and take note of how the donors responded to each appeal.