Three Quick Tips for Small and Regional Fundraisers to Improve List Performance
With bare-bones donor acquisition budgets, regional nonprofit mailers must be smart in their list planning. In direct mail in general, lists can account for 50 percent to 60 percent of the success of a mailing. Here are three tips for improving results:
1. AVOID MINIMUM-ORDER CHARGES
This is a difficult guideline to follow for many smaller fundraising mailers because they cannot make minimum-order quantities. To avoid the hefty minimums on rented direct-response lists, they turn to generally weaker, compiled donor files.
But there is a viable solution to this problem. Some brokers specializing in fundraising will consolidate list-rental orders for regional mailers with similar appeals who target different areas of the country. Examples would include food banks, hospitals, hospices and humane societies. If these similar mailers want to mail the same list, you can agree on a contemporaneous mail date and use a common merge-purge house, their broker can place a single order for the list and include the geographic region for all of the consolidated organizations. The overall mailing response increases dramatically because they can now use a list that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for them. The list invoice is allocated by the broker among the several organizations for billing purposes based on the Zip splits of the output.
2. DON’T GET SHUT OUT OF YOUR BEST LISTS
The problem of there being fewer response lists with enough names in a narrowly targeted geographic area is exacerbated if the mailer leaves the list planning and clearance process to the last minute. Owners of fundraising lists are very protective of their files and generally restrict the amount of available mail dates to third-party fundraising mailers. To assure yourself of getting the names you want when you want them, it is never too early to reserve your names, get your mail piece approved and lock in your mail date. This is especially crucial if there are a small number of larger lists with usable quantities that you rely on being available to you and that are absolutely imperative for the success of a campaign.
3. UNDERSTANDING RECENCY
Do your homework with respect to hotline names on direct-response lists. List owners charge premium prices for hotline names - the new donors, member or other additions to a file as of the most recent list update. Unfortunately, the three-month recency that you are paying a premium for is not necessarily the most recent three calendar months. In actuality, you may be getting names from the three months immediately preceding the last update.
This is often a concern when you are considering using smaller lists that update on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. If the most recent list update occurred three months ago, in effect your three-month hotline is actually five months old. As a practical matter, there might not be much you can do about the update schedule. However, with a bit of research and more complete information from your broker (including knowledge of a file’s update schedule), you might be able to time your list order to get more of a “true” hotline.
Donna Tarantino is the vice president of Rickard List Marketing, a New York-based list bokerage company. She can be reached at 631.249.8710.