Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Best Friends Animal Society, located in the heart of southern Utah’s golden circle of National Parks, is home to as many as 1,500 dogs, cats, horses,
rabbits and other animals. For the past 10 years, the organization had been using the same acquisition package. Although it had done a great job, response rates were dropping, causing the donor file to remain flat.
The situation was dire: If a new package wasn’t created, the file actually would have started to decrease, which could have led to cuts in service.
In a session at the DMA Nonprofit Federation 2006 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. this past February, Robbin Gehrke, senior vice president/executive creative director at Pasadena, Calif.-based direct-response fundraising firm Russ Reid Co., told attendees how BFAS teamed up with the firm to create a strategic plan to grow the file over the next few years while maintaining the then-current average acquisition gift of $25.
The game plan
In order to acquire and retain high-quality donors with a high lifetime value, the plan was to engage donors with upbeat stories about BFAS and then use a strong call to action to generate donations. The then-current control was a relatively inexpensive 24-page booklet that gave a simulated tour of the sanctuary in Utah and had the space to communicate the whole story of the organization. The mailing offered donors the opportunity to sponsor a dog or cat for $17. This would provide food, shelter, vet care and a loving home for one year. And for a donation of $25, the mailing offered donors a subscription to Best Friends magazine in addition to the sponsorship.
A strategy was agreed on to keep the current offer but test four new, radically different creative approaches that could tell BFAS’ story in a way that would increase the number of new donors but maintain the current average gift. The new packages were an improved control package using a similar format; a premium-driven package; a tangible involvement-device package; and a dimensional involvement-device package.