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Names in the News 2010 Acquisition Advisor: A “Roller Coaster” Year

Jamie Natelson
By JAMIE NATELSON | Thursday, 26 May 2011 15:46
Categories: Direct Mail, Donor/Member Acquisition, Industry Resources
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The 2010 End of Year Acquisition Advisor is just out from Names in the News. NIN’s comprehensive analysis reflects their database of 39 mailers, of which 29 were active in 2010 accounting for over 62.7 million pieces mailed, 500,000 new donors and $14.5 million in revenue last year.

What did they learn?
2010 began with cautious optimism as results kept up with 2009, but the mid-term elections (and ongoing economic uncertainy) yielded a weakened response, which caused an overall drop in performance.  Nevertheless, volume held steady (preserving new member totals) and the year ended stronger than 2008 in terms of revenue/thousand and cost per donor thanks to a strong holiday season.

In order to assess the actual effect of the election season on direct mail results, NIN looked back at 10 years of returns to identify possible patterns.  Although not all election seasons are exactly alike, the “highly fraught 2010 mid-term election season put the past year pretty neatly into that pattern and formed quite a roller coaster for direct mail.”

Key findings from this “roller coaster” year include:

  • Election Season Trends For each (presidential and mid-term) election year, NIN compared Q3 and Q4 revenue/thousand to overall yearly revenue/thousand and found that there is in fact an election impact to consider: Q3 tends to be relatively soft while Q4 tends to perform above average. Check out page 15 for the complete anlaysis.
  • List Type Usage 2010 volume split was similar to 2009 (with just over half of all mailing to non-profit lists and one-fifth to commercial.)  NIN noted  a continued/slight decrease in compiled/modeled mailing.  They point out this decrease is unfortunate given the saturated direct mail.  Check out Rick Malchow’s recent FYI blog post on the benefits of predictive modeling for one Avalon client.
  • Mail Volume and Costs The reversal of 2009 volume decreases is welcome as, NIN also points out, direct mail continues to be a steady source of income and member growth for nonprofits.  Given concerted efforts to reduce package costs, mailers were able to achieve healthier costs/donor and thereby increase their quantities.  As always, however, mailing smarter is critical given the tight market and economic concerns.
  • List Testing NIN recommends core list testing be given first priority with a heavy emphasis on compiled/modeled lists.  Avalon agrees.  In addition, their findings also note the rebound of commerical lists (due to more strategic useage) – and that it might be time to test and re-test at this time. 
  • Subsequent Donor Value As we mail smarter with lower initial costs,  it is critical to not lose sight of the long term donor when selecting lists.  In addition to tracking the 24 month return on acquisition investment by list type (great chart on page 21), NIN has analyzed 24 month subsequent donor value by list type and confirmed that “giving levels for acquisition campaigns through 2008 have trended downward.”  The chart below visualizes this donor value … and is a strong plug for testing compiled/modeled lists given their performance against traditional non-profit names:


To read the full report, click here – and make sure to check out page 7 for a list of recommended action items.  This is a great resource … thank you Names in the News!

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