As we embark on a new year, so too have begun the membership/donor renewal efforts for many organizations.
Renewal programs are a series of contacts with the member/donor, asking that individual to renew her support for the organization’s work for another year. Renewal formats can include direct-mail packages, telemarketing calls and, increasingly, e-mail.
For those who are new to the industry, there are two types of membership/donor renewal programs — calendar-based and expire-based. Some organizations subscribe to a calendar-based renewal series, which seeks to renew the annual support of current members/donors at the same time, typically at the end of one calendar year or at the beginning of the next.
An expire-based renewal system seeks to do the same, except the timing of the renewal effort is based on the anniversary of that individual’s first contribution.
There are pros and cons for each type of system. Expire systems take the donors’ giving habits into better consideration and allow the organization to spread income throughout the year. But expire renewal systems also are much more expensive, for mailings are scattered across the year; as a result the quantities of each mailing often are small — driving up production costs.
Since a calendar-based renewal system typically starts at the beginning of the year, it takes advantage of the most productive time to renew a donor’s support. And since all donors are mailed at once, mail quantities are much higher and production costs are much lower. Calendar-based systems generally are best for small and fledging organizations.
In many ways, renewal solicitations are the easiest to produce. Asking a donor to simply renew her support is one of the most basic forms of fundraising, and it doesn’t take a creative genius to prepare such a package.
Despite the relative simplicity of such efforts, I’m still amazed by how many renewal programs lack some of the basic elements that can achieve the best results.