List Research from the Trenches
Assume that you have just stepped into the marketing job for an established nonprofit organization. Your predecessor has disappeared in the midst of planning a 100,000-name prospecting mailing, leaving you with a clever new package, ready to test against an established control; an updated housefile; and a yellow sticky note on your computer screen that says: “Set to go. Just have to order the lists. Call our broker.” Where do you begin?
CALL THE BROKER
The list broker who has been working with your new organization over time will fill you in on the basics, so make this call first. Go over everything from the client history to the list-exchange policy to the mail date. Work out a reasonable calendar. Time is now short, so discuss which of the established continuation lists will need to be immediately cleared. The clock is ticking.
DO THE NUMBERS
Dig out the list history and past campaign returns. Immerse yourself in the data. Make sure you know what the average gift has been over time, as well as the response rate by list, the cost in the mail and, most importantly, the net revenue per donor.
Without this number, you don’t have a clue what your investment is, so if your predecessor has left you without this key piece of data, do the calculation. What is the acceptable investment in a new donor? What is the lifetime value of a donor? (That is the sum of donations, responses to special appeals and list revenue over the life of a donor -- calculated with an average renewal percent over a number of years.) What is your renewal rate? Will you be responsible for replacing donors lost by attrition (check out the universe of the housefile) or does your new board of directors hope for growth? What are they willing to invest?