FYI Blog

Co-op List Return on Investment: The Verdict Is In

As co-op list usage continues to grow, Avalon wanted to confirm our findings from two years back, which showed that co-op lists yielded strong up-front performance and long-term value.

Avalon Analytics analyzed seven popular co-op lists to see what’s working best for our clients. We also analyzed non-co-op lists made up of outside lists only—no lapsed or other house lists.

Our verdict? Co-ops continue to produce strong return on investment metrics, making them an integral part of our clients’ acquisition programs.

Avalon always considers mailing results to be a preliminary step in assessing a list’s effectiveness, because lifetime value (LTV) is also an important measure of success. To take this long view, our analysis included gifts between July 2011 and June 2017. And although we’re confident in our results, they are based our specific clients’ programs, so we recommend that nonprofits rely on their own individual list analysis when deciding strategy.

Some general takeaways from our co-op analysis:

  • Overall, co-ops show very strong return-on-investment metrics when compared to non-co-ops, a trend that holds true for more recent joins as well as older joins.

  • Overall, co-op lists tend to make larger gains in ROI over the years—often overcoming a weaker initial cost to acquire. One co-op made back 237% of our clients’ investments by year 5, compared to 109% for the non-co-op panel.

  • At year 4 for all clients, the two strongest co-op performers had more than three times the gross return on investment (GROI) of non-co-op lists.

Sector performance is even more important than overall performance, as strength for certain co-ops can vary by sector.

  • Abacus and Apogee are current top performers for advocacy clients. DonorBase, iBehavior, and Target also produce stronger LTV values when compared to non-co-op lists.
  • Wiland is a top performer for environmental/conservation organizations, but DonorBase, Target, Apogee, and Abacus also produce very strong LTV metrics for these clients.
  • Wiland, Abacus, and DonorBase stand out in the arts/cultural sector.

Avalon’s analysis allows us to mail co-op lists judiciously for our clients, because we have a good sense of which co-op lists work best for specific clients in specific sectors. We encourage nonprofits to do their own co-op list testing to see how your results compare with what we’ve found works for our clients.