Mail less, raise more

March 23rd, 2018 | by Steve Falk, President of Prime Data |

How listening to your donors helps you reduce the amount you spend to raise a dollar

Here are some industry slogans you won’t likely see promoted:

Drink less wine – a message from local vintners

Keep your old car longer – brought to you by your local car dealers

Use less mobile data, it can wait until you’re home – the cell phone industry association

As the owner of a company that depends on fundraising through direct mail campaign for a large chunk of my business, You might be surprised to read this, but I’m actually an advocate for sending LESS mail.

Send less mail: You’ll spend less to raise a dollar

Let’s say I carefully pick one donor and hand-write them a letter mentioning their personal connection to the charity I represent. Then I suggest a gift that is appropriate to their past habits. It’s very likely that I’ll get a 100% response.

As I expand this to include 2, 3, 50, 1000 donors, simple math dictates my success rate will inevitably decline.

How can fundraisers get the success rate of that one handwritten letter, without handwriting thousands of carefully researched one-on-one letters?

The trick is to find the tipping points in results versus efforts, and to not miss opportunities to identify, as accurately as possible given the size of the donor universe:

  • Who is most likely to give
  • How often
  • How much

To start, you need to build and use more detailed donor identities

The Agitator (a free daily blog about fundraising and associated discussions that I highly recommend), recently approached this from a number of angles. The gist of it is, if you know a bit more about your donor identity, and then personalize your message, you’ll get improved engagement and outcomes.

Apply some analytical #data when #mailing engaged donors less frequently. It costs you less without compromising the gross level of giving. #fundraising Click To Tweet

You can apply some analytical data to mail the engaged donor less frequently. It ends up costing you less without compromising the gross level of giving.

You’ve already got the data: Mining it is easier than ever

Determining the ideal frequency of your mailings takes some careful analysis. But the good news is that it’s easier than ever to mine that data from your file. Caity Craver of Donor Trends puts it this way, “The power to predict your donors’ behavior is in your hands. With technology, machines are doing all of the heavy lifting, isolating the donors you should focus on now, and those that you should not. This leads to increases in net revenue, retention, and overall efficiency.”

Don’t rely just on your instincts

Our instincts on how often and whom we should ask for a gift are just that — instincts — and they can lead us to incorrect conclusions. Do you really know when mailing too often actually degrades your efforts? Can you tell which donors would be fine only receiving one piece of mail per year or whether they could miss a couple mailings?  Without a good sense of this information, most organizations tend to default to mailing a lot over a little and hope that will give them best results.

But think of your email. If you sign up for a monthly newsletter and then start getting daily drips from the source, how long is it before you tune it out and unsubscribe? As a fundraiser that is your worst outcome. And that’s why I recommend all fundraisers look carefully at their data and optimize their mailings to maximize their effectiveness and reduce overall marketing costs.

If you want to talk about how we can help you sort out your data and decrease your costs, give me a call today.

Posted in News.