Focus On: Personalization: Dear Mr. Sample
While APLA clearly knows its donors, the organization takes steps to learn more about each individual — in the hopes of making for more relevant communication in the future.
“The longer someone has been involved with an organization, the less likely they are to let their membership lapse,” Rehm says. “Therefore we want to let donors know that we know that they have been with the organization for seven years or 17 years, and that they are appreciated.”
A simple game of high-low
Despite the charm and intimacy of direct mail personalization, certain donor constituencies might not always welcome the special attention with open arms. Willis Turner, senior writer at Richmond, VA-based direct marketing firm Huntsinger & Jeffer, has observed some stark differences in how high-dollar and low-dollar audiences respond to personalization.
“Low-dollar donors tend to be more skeptical about you having their personal information,” Turner says, citing a report conducted by Huntsinger & Jeffer. “Some are used to a certain level of anonymity in direct mail, and when it seems like you know too much about them, it gives them reason to be skeptical.”
High-dollar donors are just the opposite. According to Turner, who scribes appeals for The Ocean Conservancy and the American Red Cross, many affluent contributors want organizations to recognize them personally as “the ones who gave the big gift.” Therefore, it behooves an organization to mention their highest previous gift in an appeal: “We value your most recent contribution of $500, Mr. Sample.”
“High-dollar donors prefer to be acknowledged in that way, so personalization works very well. The response rate will most likely overcome the costs involved, as well,” he says.
Even though personalization is now more affordable, Turner says some nonprofits still have trouble allocating extra dollars for low-dollar appeals.
“Since the volume is so great at the lower level, we don’t want to commit as much financial resources on those folks to personalize,” shares Julie Kraus, director of membership for The Ocean Conservancy, an organization dedicated to protecting ocean ecosystems and marine wildlife. “We would want to put the effort into the area … we feel can make the biggest fundraising impact. Obviously, we are going to spend a little more time personalizing for the high-dollar folk.”