Putting the Science Back in Fundraising
There are several problems with this approach. First, the people asked to give $3 may have had the capacity–and the desire–to give $150 each, but only gave $3 because that was the ask amount. Money was left on the table because no one strategically segmented the database to determine capacity for giving or past giving practices. Worse still, no one made a case for giving. Absent these actions, an organization can send out 20,000 more emails than ever before and still bring in three times less money.
Past donor behavior must form the basis for the next fundraising strategy. And, the ask must rely on a conversation, not a threat. People will only give their hard-earned dollars when they are vested in an organization’s mission. To achieve this level of engagement, organizations must have meaningful conversations with donors in which they make a case for giving over time.
It is important to know the issue that precipitated a donor’s first giving action and be mindful of it when similar situations present. Consider activist women’s organizations, for example. Some women are very involved in what is happening legislatively. So, when a key issue is occurring on the state or national level, it is important to reach out to those women in the database. Other donors, based on past response, only engage in times of a high-profile presidential election. Therefore, it is best not to spend a lot of time reaching out to them during off-year elections. Then, there are high-profile legislative bills. A good example can be found in the five bills aimed at abortion restrictions that the Republicans introduced in the first three days of the 114th Congress. Because limiting women's access to this procedure is an issue to which most progressive women will respond, a wider net would be cast.
The science of direct marketing gives us the ability to know our donor base, what motivates their giving and what their past giving practices are. In turn, this knowledge provides a basis for conversing with supporters in a meaningful way on issues that resonate with them. Armed with this knowledge, direct marketing professionals can construct a credible plan, often relying on fewer telephone calls, direct mail pieces and/or emails, with predictable results.
As the old saying goes, it is quality not quantity. Direct marketing science delivers quality and results. It’s time to return to science.
Kim Cubine is president of Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey (CCAH), a full-service direct marketing firm with offices in Arlington, Va., and San Francisco. She possesses over 20 years’ experience as a strategist and communicator for progressive causes and political candidates. She has managed the direct marketing programs of some of the largest, most prestigious campaigns and global nonprofit organizations, including Obama for America, EMILY’s List, Clinton-Gore ’96, The Wilderness Society, NARAL Pro-Choice America, AARP and the Democratic National Committee. Since assuming the presidency of the firm, she has been instrumental in developing CCAH into the first and leading, full-service direct marketing agency in the country.