Breathe Some Life Into Your Annual Campaign
When it comes to the question of which list strategies work to build and develop a base of annual giving donors, the obvious answer is to look for more names that are similar to your regular annual donors. Common industry wisdom says to analyze what your best donors are like and then go find more like them.
While that statement certainly is true, the problem with a simplistic approach is that it neglects important discussions of gift size, lifetime value, future giving potential and other key ingredients of a successful annual-giving program.
Success hinges not only on what you bring in during this fiscal year; the consequences of the current year’s annual-fund drive programs and their associated list decisions will carry over for many years to come.
“Sixty percent of the success of any direct mail effort is the result of the list, so it’s important to spend the time to find the right lists,” asserts Kerry Fischette, senior account executive of list firm MKTG Services in Newtown, Pa.
A concern is that many nonprofits will send their annual appeal mainly to housefile names, “ … with perhaps a few high-quality outside prospecting lists that have proven themselves in the past, and a few tests thrown in,” says Jerry Gould, president, Conrad Direct Inc., a list brokerage and management firm in Cresskill, N.J.
Gould warns, “If your success rate on list tests is better than 35 percent, you’re probably not testing enough.”
Nonprofits should remain steadfast in testing of new lists, according to Fischette, who warns, “This is an important and ongoing part of their annual campaign strategy. Testing of new lists with different strategies should be worked on together and discussed by the list broker and the creative team.”
Even if every list test doesn’t work out (and it won’t), Fischette stresses that, “In acquisitions, you have to continue to test a variety of lists, including those of other nonprofits, catalog lists and publications lists.”