Above and Beyond
Hines says she has clients who have seen between 5 percent and 8 percent response to upgrade mailings — results that seem to hold true year after year.
“For organizations that we’ve been doing these upgrade campaigns for, we did them the first year and it was very successful. Resoundingly successful, and we thought, ‘OK, everybody who was going to upgrade has done it. We’ll try it again this next year but it probably won’t work,’” Hines says. “[But] their revenues went from like $45,000 in upgrade revenues the first year to $85,000 in the second year, so there was actually, I would say, almost a hunger among their members to do more than what they had been doing.”
Because they focus on the added benefits of moving up the membership ladder, upgrade campaigns are a good way to reach members who might not respond to purely philanthropic appeals where they won’t receive anything in return.
“So you can do the math for them and kind of play their game,” Hines says. “This is a value situation. If you’re a member at the $250 level, you’re going to receive X number of passes, and you value that at X number of dollars and so you can really illustrate for them how it’s also a good value in addition to helping support the zoo or the aquarium or wherever they might be a member.”
Offering members premiums such as hats or umbrellas, as many
environment-focused organizations do, often can encourage an upgrade in membership level, as well. However, many development professionals are leery of getting their donors “addicted” to the premium model, making it increasingly harder to retain and upgrade them.