This month’s case studies feature two instances where a shift in creative approach resulted in much-improved appeal response rates.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Holiday Appeal
Objective: Not wanting to forgo the traditionally blockbuster holiday and year-end giving season because of NCMEC’s potentially sad message, Avalon designed a creative appeal that would honor the organization’s mission, while compelling donors to make a contribution.
Strategy and Audience: Addressing a heart-rending topic – missing and exploited children – at a time when many people are joyously gathering with their families, can be a daunting challenge. Avalon’s creative approach was to appeal for donors’ help in making other families’ gatherings whole again. We developed the compelling narrative of an empty chair at the holiday table, to draw in the donors and express broken families’ need for support and compassion – without overpowering donors with the frightening thought of a missing child at holiday time. The letter explained that through donor support, NCMEC helps to make sure that thousands of those chairs are filled with safe, happy children celebrating the holidays with their families. This heartfelt message from NCMEC President John Walsh – along with the image of a vulnerable child – struck the perfect balance between despair and hope; loss and recovery; grief and celebration. The red carrier and real return address label added to the appeal’s personal feel. We mailed to NCMEC’s 0-12 month donors ($10-$999) and 13-24 month donors ($50-999).
Results: This holiday appeal produced the highest gross and net revenues in NCMEC’s donor program history, beating the previous highest grossing appeal by 19%! The response rate was 43% higher than the previous year’s November appeal, and the average gift was 19% higher. New joins had a response rate of 8.7%, and multi-year members responded at 12.47%. Even lapsed donors responded at 3.38%.
These case studies feature three 2013 MAXI Award-winning online campaigns. The first describes how we modify messaging by effort and by donor to maximize results. The next case study explores an e-Renewal start-up program, and how its multi-channel focus benefited all channels. The third case study reviews how a tried-and-true campaign was bumped to launch an online emergency appeal, with terrific results.
National Museum of the American Indian E-Renewal Series
Objective: NMAI had a basic monthly e-Renewal series in place, but members received the same renewal email every month. To improve performance and renewal integration, Avalon sought to more closely tailor the messages by effort and to individual donors.
Strategy and Audience: A new series was designed and implemented to personalize each effort, renew more members, and raise more money. First, an R0 effort was added that was sent five months prior to expire and one month prior to the R1 mail and email, to encourage more members to renew early. The copy, including subject lines, was completely revamped to complement the mail, use more compelling institutional renewal language, and increase the urgency as the series progressed.
For example, the R3 (sent in the month of expire) highlighted a specific deadline (e.g., Your membership expires on Sunday) to increase urgency. The asks in the email and on the landing page were personalized to each member’s previous giving level, while also promoting a membership upgrade. Finally, expire groups were grouped together to streamline implementation.
Results: Tailored messaging and ask strings paid off big time, improving the overall e-Renewal series across several metrics: gross revenue up by 57%, response rate up by 25%, a 44% increase in the number of members renewed, and a 9% increase in average gift from the same time period as the previous fiscal year (April-November). NMAI’s new e-Renewal Series was the perfect solution to increase renewal rates, and complemented the direct mail perfectly – and the series has not affected performance in other channels.
The Trustees of Reservations e-Renewal Series:
Objective: The Trustees of Reservations had no online efforts to supplement its direct mail renewal program, and with a largely membership-based constituency, Avalon knew the best way to expand renewals would be to use a multi-channel approach — integrating an online element to maximize renewal revenue and increase member retention rates. An effective rolling e-Renewal program was just the ticket.
Strategy and Audience: Like the direct mail series, e-Renewals were sent monthly, on a rolling basis. The series began with R1, sent to donors three months before their membership expiration, and ended with R3, which donors received in their month of expire. We also incorporated a quarterly lapsed effort, emailing donors who were lapsed as far back as 48 months from the R1 expire month.
The emails reflected the over-arching message of preserving special places, and included evocative photographs from The Trustees’ properties. A personalized asking string was also implemented — based on previous giving history — to ensure a strong renewal average gift appropriate to each member. Each member’s donation page was customized to pre-select the level above his or her current giving to encourage member upgrading.
Results: The e-Renewals surpassed all budgeted and non-budgeted expectations with a very high 3.52% response rate (compared to the industry standard of 0.08% for fundraising emails — based on M+R’s 2012 eNonprofit Benchmark Study). The average gift was a remarkable $92.19, in part due to the individualized ask strategy that encouraged members to upgrade, which helped many donors to renew at levels over $100. In fact, the average monthly upgrade rate was extremely high at 16%.
The combined direct mail and email renewal results indicate that the overall multi-channel strategy is working to generate significantly more revenue. FY13 combined has already exceeded FY12, and is 21% ahead of last year’s renewals.
The Supreme Court's recent decisions on affirmative action, voting rights, and marriage equality will have far-reaching positive and negative effects on social justice. While we can celebrate progress towards marriage equality, the Voting Rights Act decision is devastating. Below are some excerpts from the statements made by some of our clients about these landmark decisions:
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on marriage equality:
“Today’s historic decisions are a significant leap forward for freedom and justice for same-sex couples and their families, the LGBT community and for our nation—and a lot more work needs to be done to deliver marriage equality to the rest of our nation’s same-sex couples and their families and full equality in every other respect for all LGBT people,” said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
On the Proposition 8 case, the lower federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional—and the High Court today allowed this ruling to stand. Marriage equality is now reestablished in California.
In all, the federal government will now recognize the marriages of same-sex couples and couples will be able to marry once again in California, our nation’s most populous state.
“These rulings mean stronger families and communities across our nation: Millions of same-sex married couples will gain access to all of the benefits associated with marriage. These include: health care, Social Security, housing and income security—all key components of the American Dream,” Carey said.
“However, those legally married same-sex couples (and widows or widowers) who have moved to—or now live in—a state that discriminates against their marriages, may face barriers to their federal marital protections. We will fight this.”
The Task Force’s full statement can be found here.
These case studies are solid examples of the workhorse package that continues to perform year after year.
First up: the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).
Objective: Avalon reignited a discontinued package that was popular with members, acknowledged their commitment — and provided a compelling vehicle to raise additional revenue for the Museum.
This month, we describe how we used current events to drive donor appeals and acquisition urgency and messaging.
The 2012 Presidential election was the ideal environment for the League of Women Voters to capitalize on their work, and use high-impact messaging to drive giving. But in an extremely competitive market: how could we make the League stand out? We looked to a growing story in the news for our answer. After the Citizen’s United Decision drastically changed the campaign landscape, small stories started to appear about cookie-cutter legislation pushing for voter ID laws across the country. So we knew we had an issue that was specific to the League’s work, but also had some fire.
This month, we bring you two Avalon client case studies, describing how we capitalized on our clients’ distinctive qualities to improve lackluster donor prospecting results.
The National Museum of the American Indian’s donor acquisition performance had suffered since the recession, and the two formerly strong co-control packages were starting to stumble. Avalon was tasked with finding a new and creative way to attract donors in a more cost-effective manner.
This was a special Creating Change conference that my colleagues Margaret Romig, Bill Tucker, and I attended this January. While it was my third, it was also the 25th anniversary of this amazing conference.
Officially, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference is the “largest annual gathering of activists, organizers and leaders in the LGBT movement.” But that does not even begin to describe what this conference is about.
As we are fewer than 40 days out from the 2012 Presidential Elections some of Avalon’s clients have valuable resources for voters. Here are some worth checking out:
In 2011, the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami impacted the Galapagos Conservancy directly. So the organization reached out to its members with an urgent request for funds to repair damage to the Charles Darwin Research Center, and to research the effect of the event on local animal populations.
In response, Avalon created an Urgent Gram appeal and mailed deeply into the Galapagos Conservancy’s file (from 0-30 months for donors $25-999.99, and to 36 months for higher-dollar donors). A companion e-appeal was designed as well.