“Why do you mail so often? I don’t need all those letters.” Hearing something like this from a donor can give a nonprofit pause about how much mail they’re sending out. But even if your supporters might think they’re receiving too much mail, donor behavior tells another story. Many nonprofits have experimented with decreased mailing schedules, almost always with the same result: a corresponding drop-off in donations. Author and fundraising expert Tom Ahern wrote recently that while attending a very high-level fundraising conference he was surprised by what the experts were saying about the optimal number of solicitations to send per year. A colleague answered that 20 times per year was the optimal number, while another speaker said that their testing showed 21 was the maximum, with further appeals showing decreasing returns. Another veteran fundraiser believed the “sweet spot” was 36 annual appeals. The key takeaway according to Ahern: “Over-solicitation is probably NOT your charity's problem.” Grizzard Communications performed an interesting test of the question in 2014. Donors who gave more than $500 annually were asked how often they would like to receive appeals. The 37 percent who replied requested between one and three mailings per year. Tracking subsequent donor behavior revealed that those who received the full twelve solicitations per year donated 35 percent more on average. Why the disconnect? First, and most obviously, donors respond to different appeals. Not everyone who supports Project A is equally excited about Project B. Second, timing matters. The reason so many nonprofits focus on the holidays is because this is by far the biggest season for giving. Still, each donor may respond due to other factors that come up during the year, and since we can’t know with certainty what is the best time for every donor, frequent solicitations are the best guarantee that your donors will see your message at the time that is best for them. If they are donating to you, they support what you are doing, and you shouldn’t be shy about asking for even more support. It is important to respect donors’ wishes and limit mailings when specifically requested, but most organizations have room to grow if the goal is to maximize return on investment from their donor file. So, remember, your donors give because they love your cause. If you send them less appeals, they will hear less about what they love and end up sending you less money. If your non-profit receives less money you will not be able to do as much good. It’s that difference you are making that caused the donor to fall in love with the good your non-profit is doing in the first place. Don’t make it easy for your donors to fall out of love. For help with developing your next fundraising campaign, contact LDMI today.
Every nonprofit’s goal is (or should be) to have direct mail fundraising packages that deliver good results every time they’re mailed — for years and years. In prospect mail, this is a package that can be rolled out to larger and larger quantities with each mailing and still performs well. In your house file mail, this is a package mailed annually at about the same time each year. We call these your “control” packages. But even your most successful direct mail packages can be improved through creative testing. We were recently looking for a way to beat a monthly gift package we’ve been mailing to a client’s house file for a decade. This control package showed a First-Class stamp paperclipped to the letter, and the opening of the letter, through an oversized window on a 6”x9” carrier envelope. While this package has been successful for years in acquiring new monthly donors — beating other format tests — it is expensive because of the First-Class stamp and the handwork needed to paperclip the stamp to the letter. In our latest test, we mailed this control against a closed-face 6”x9” envelope on which an image of the stamp and the beginning of the letter were printed. The test package still contained a First-Class stamp, but it was affixed to the return envelope, which is done by machine and is less expensive than hand-affixing with a paperclip. To keep costs down, we made minimal changes to print similar components together that could be used for both packages. This package had a pre-printed blue circle of the words “First-Class stamp” with an arrow pointing to the stamp. But since the stamp wasn’t there in the test package, the text of the beginning of the test package letter was changed accordingly. Since the primary goal was to bring in new monthly gift donors, not short-term net revenue, analyzing the data on new monthly givers would be a key component in evaluating the results of this test. The Results The test package raised more gross revenue, had a higher percent response, and tied with the control on the overall average gift. When it came to monthly gifts, the test package brought in about the same number of new monthly givers as the control, but the test package monthly donors gave a higher average monthly gift. These results, combined with the fact that the test package was less expensive to produce, means that the test package dethroned the long-running control package. Not every test will result in a winner, but if designed properly, every direct mail test will yield useful information. Package and component tests, even for packages that have been successful in the past, are essential for a successful nonprofit direct mail program. For help with developing your next fundraising campaign, contact LDMI today.
Optimizing the return on your nonprofit’s direct marketing investment is both an art and a science. You develop creative ways to boost response and then measure the results. The data from direct mail testing is empirical, factual. To paraphrase a popular speaker, these are facts that don’t care about your feelings. But you have to carefully design your tests to ensure the accuracy of your data. For example, when conducting a test to increase the performance of a control package, you should only change one element of the package to better know what caused the difference in results. If you change two factors, you’re not sure which had the effect, or if they cancel each other out. Knowing what effect that one test element had on your package can help you make decisions about future packages. We recently helped a client test a design element we hoped would increase average gift amounts of a successful house file control package. The one simple design change on the reply (see image) was to circle the second ask amount with a script text note off to the side, “This amount would really help!” The ask string amounts were calculated the same way in both packages. The first ask amount reflected the supporter’s highest previous contribution (HPC) and the second ask amount (the one circled in the test) was calculated as 1.5 times HPC. So the test nudged donors to give just a little bit more than we knew they were capable of giving. The test package outperformed the control package by a substantial margin in terms of average gift. In the test package, we saw an average gift of $67.99 versus $56.79 for the control package. This is more than a 19 percent increase in average gift for this particular mailing. This test was successful because it increased average gift like we hoped it would. We’ve rolled this test out to other packages, with the same and other clients, and we’ll report back more results in the future. For help with developing your nonprofit’s next fundraising campaign, contact LDMI today.
Despite a decrease in the number of donors, overall giving to nonprofits increased for the seventh consecutive year according to a recently-published report. "2018 continued the longest sustained period of charitable giving growth since the last recession,” Blackbaud’s 2018 Charitable Giving Report stated. Overall charitable giving in 2018 saw an increase of 1.5 percent over 2017 levels, which analysts believe is a return to normal levels of expected year-to-year increase after spikes in the previous two years. Online giving grew 1.2 percent in 2018 compared to 2017 — reaching a record high of approximately 8.5 percent of all fundraising revenue. And the report found that donations on mobile devices now comprise 24 percent of total online donations, up 3 percent from 2017. While it’s a record high for online giving, these numbers show the overwhelming majority of fundraising still comes through traditional means, like direct mail. Bucking the overall trend of year to year increases, small nonprofits actually saw a 2.3 percent decline in overall giving from 2017 to 2018 according to the report — but their online giving saw a modest increase of 0.7 percent over the same period. Medium-sized nonprofit organizations ($1M - $10M) saw an increase of 2 percent in overall giving and 3.7 percent online, while large nonprofits (over $10M) saw 2.3 percent growth overall and a decrease in online giving of 0.5 percent. The report contained interesting breakdowns of giving by nonprofit size and sector, by monthly distribution, international trends, and #GivingTuesday figures. Some key metrics from the report on U.S. donors include: DONOR AGEAverage age of donor: 62 DONATION AMOUNTSMedian donation amount for gifts above $1,000: $2,049Median donation amount for gifts below $1,000: $20 Average online donation amount: $147 DONOR RETENTIONFirst-year, offline-only donor retention rate for nonprofits: 29%Multi-year, offline-only donor retention rate for nonprofits: 60%First-year, online-only donor retention rate for nonprofits: 22%Multi-year, online-only donor retention rate for nonprofits: 64% See the full report for further information. For help with developing your nonprofit’s next fundraising campaign, contact LDMI today.
Great visuals are known to increase audience engagement across almost all communication channels. The right photo or video can be the difference between a post that goes viral and one that only a few see. For nonprofit fundraisers, visual content and art design in emails, on landing pages, and in direct mail packages have a direct impact on the performance of your campaigns. But the most important thing to understand is that the art must support your fundraising copy — not distract from the copy. If your fundraising campaign is all about the art design, your message won’t break through, and your campaign performance will be abysmal. A new report from content companies Contently and Libris, Engaging Your Audience with Visual Content, shows the growth of visual-based content use is only increasing, especially for video. 73 percent of the more than 1,000 marketing and creative professionals surveyed said that their need for videography has increased since last year, and 63 percent say the same about photography. Interestingly, although the demand for good video content is increasing dramatically, only 17 percent of these professionals reported that they considered their company’s video content to be “very good.” But even with the demand for video increasing, the consensus of the marketers surveyed in the report was that photography is still number one in terms of driving engagement: Photography is not only the visual content that drives the most engagement, but as we learned earlier, teams can produce it faster than other formats. This brings up a crucial insight: While video content is on the rise, photography continues to offer high return on investment. As marketers shift the focus to video, they must not lose sight of photography. The right photograph in a direct mail package or email can make all the difference in terms of producing the emotional response you’re looking for to motivate donations to your cause. A compelling video package can also be highly effective in terms of motivating giving. But again, it has to support the fundraising message. Creating high-quality videos can be very expensive, and nonprofits don’t have unlimited budgets. Yet, nonprofits definitely have a story to tell. There are many ways to tell stories that engage your audience and yield solid revenue growth. Finding your niche is key — not copying someone else’s model, but seeing what works, what is available, and finding the best fit for your organization’s budget and your fundraising and communication goals. Visual storytelling done well can be an extremely effective way to bolster support for your nonprofit’s cause — as long as it’s used to support, not overwhelm, your fundraising message. For help with developing your next fundraising campaign, contact LDMI today.
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