I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Direct Marketing Association (DMA) annual conference recently with my colleagues Rick Malchow and Jackie Biancolli. Some of the key takeaways for us:
One of the puzzles that keeps us all guessing in the field of nonprofit fundraising is what it is that motivates donors to give. Long or short letter? Benefits? Envelope teasers? Institutional messaging? Unfortunately, as we all know, the only way to find out is through consistent, ongoing testing.
Any marketer who’s tried guessing which test will outperform the control knows that in reality, no one can say every time what motivates donors. Not even donors! But we can make some educated guesses, especially when it comes to arts donors.
As usual, the commercial world is probably a few years ahead of the non-profit world. The myriad of consumer and psychographic data collected from the Internet, catalogs, and retail stores — Big Data —may or may not prove invaluable to nonprofits. Some of the pioneer donor co-ops are extracting effective models from this mound of raw data (see Jeff Mello’s FYI piece about co-ops and compiled lists), but the fact remains that in the nonprofit arena, there is no variable more predictive than the fact that an individual has recently given a philanthropic gift.
As we continue to draw conclusions from Avalon clients’ online fundraising year-end results, here are some overall impressions:
When the Obama campaign announced in August that it would begin accepting text message contributions, the debate on small-dollar giving was off and running. Because if political campaigns can simultaneously engage grassroots supporters, identify voters, and raise funds through texts and online marketing, shouldn’t nonprofits use this strategy, too?
Probably not. And here’s why.
We know Avalon’s eFundraising programs are effective, but how do they stack up against industry benchmarks from M+R and Convio? We compared calendar year 2011 stats to the 2011 data from both benchmark studies. Not all of the sectors were an easy apples-to-apples comparison, but we can draw the following conclusions:
At some point, all nonprofits are affected by a major external event — a devastating natural disaster; a Supreme Court decision; a presidential candidate making an outrageous statement on their issues — and must turn on a dime to raise donors’ awareness and/or appeal to them for support.
You never know what trends will pop up unexpectedly in acquisition programs. Recently, we noticed that multi-buyer list performance has been waning in one client’s direct mail prospecting program. A quick check revealed that this depression coincided with when we’d started using commercially compiled lists. So we did some analysis to see if, in fact, compiled list multi-buyers were pulling down overall multi-buyer performance. For this client, that turned out to be the case.
Avalon has run a number of successful tests in our marketing efforts recently, so I’d like to share a few of our best results: