Focus On: Lists: Prospecting Lists that Work
You can have the most deserving cause and a highly compelling appeal, but your direct mail is going to be wasted if it’s sent to the wrong lists. That’s why, for any direct mail fundraising campaign, the list is the most important element within the nonprofit organization’s control — that, according to Mal Warwick, chairman of Mal Warwick & Associates Inc., Berkeley, CA.
While existing donors — those already on your housefile — certainly respond best, you can’t rely on them as your sole source of names. Attrition is bound to happen, even with the best of donor lists, so it’s absolutely vital to have ongoing name-replenishment programs in place in order to maintain and increase your organization’s donor base.
Developing a successful list-prospecting program will give you an ongoing source of new donors. And while it’s well-accepted that most donor-acquisition mailings are done at a loss, the good news is that with careful prospect list selection, the donors you bring onto your file will stay there for several years.
Consider your “ask.”
The first step to maximizing the potential of any direct mail donor-acquisition program is to determine the right kind of names for your kind of appeal. Matching the list to the “ask” is one part of the list-selection process, says Denise Inglisa Hubbard, the senior vice president of MKTG Services, a relationship-marketing firm based in Newtown, PA.
“Depending on the package, the complexion of lists used will differ,” says Hubbard, who handles both management and brokerage for the National Parks Conservation Association, Civil War Preservation Trust and Wilson Quarterly.
A straight appeal package is going to have a larger percentage of donor names in the mix, whereas premium-based packages featuring address labels or other goodies tend to include more non-donor files, she explains.
Next, look at the availability of appropriate prospect list sources. Among the sources you’ll want to consider: known nonprofit donors, direct mail buyers such as catalog customers and magazine subscribers, and compiled names.