Direct Mail Fundraising for the New Year
Assume you just started as a development person just before the holidays and you need to get out your year-end appeal right now. Forget it; it is too late now. If it did not get into the mail by Dec. 18, it will not arrive in time for anyone to do anything about sending you a check, donating to your website or calling you with their donation. It is too late.
It's not too late to plan now for your New Year’s fundraising campaign. So, let’s continue the assumption your new job with the nonprofit requires a complete direct mail campaign from scratch. Don’t fret! Here is a good list of things to start with: call your list broker, do the numbers, plan the mailing and test, test, test.
Call Your List Broker
If you do not have one, find one in your list of contacts left for you by your predecessor. If not, call up another nonprofit and ask them for a list broker contact. Let’s assume you have a reputable list broker that can help guide you through your first of many mailings. Your list broker would have a history of working with your organizations, the list histories, the success or failure rates, as well as any list exchange programs already in place.
Do the Numbers
Dig out the list history and past campaign returns. Immerse yourself into the data, make sure you know what the average donation gift has been over time, as well as the response rates by the list. What will be your budget, what has been spent before on previous first of year mailings? What is your NPRD (net revenue per donor)? Without these numbers, you will not have a clue what your investment is per every donor. Do your math now. What is the acceptable investment of your new donor? What is the lifetime value of your donors (that is the sum of donations, responses to a special appeal and list revenue over the life of your donor). Will you also be responsible for rebuilding lost donors or even bringing back to your nonprofit—those donors that have lapsed in the past two to five years. Add them into your mailing lists as well. How much does your board of directors want to spend in your New Year’s mailing?
Plan the Mailing
Along with your list broker, write a list plan. The books outlining the previous mailings should be around in the office somewhere, and that data bank will be your gold mine of past data. You can now list by donation levels what lists worked and which ones bombed. Ranking your lists from top to bottom by the net revenue per donor. You can now calculate what you can expect from your mailing, and you can adjust the costs accordingly. Having a friendly printer and mailing house and emailing house, with a creative art director or two, will add to the mix of both expenses as well as rewards.
Test, Test, Test
Your success over time will depend on how carefully selected the few, precious lists that have worked best for your previous mailings. Like-minded lists might be another list choice that the listing broker might suggest that have a history of responsiveness to your own nonprofit’s mission statement. Lists that offer a large profile of available names offer continuation potential beyond your initial test of the 5,000 or so from your first test of the list. The broker will offer suggestions on how to best proceed with previous as well as new lists to try for your New Year’s first appeal mailing.
The New Year’s mailing offers a fresh start for your house donors, as well as finding new donors. You can announce a newsletter or special appeals to follow highlighting one of more success stories from the past year. The New Year’s mailing provides both challenges and opportunities to your organization. Plan and spend wisely for the New Year’s mailing.
James E. Sullivan is the project director of Optic Nerve Digital Direct Marketing. Reach him at email@example.com.