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Improving the Successful Campaign

September 28th, 2011

The expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” isn’t exactly true.  In fact, if a campaign of yours is succeeding quite well, it needs to be examined for exactly why and how . . . and then extrapolated as much as possible!

Chances are that if your campaign is thriving, that idea, strategy or method can be applied or extended even further – or used in another campaign, to expand your fundraising beyond what it’s currently doing.  Most important is first to learn the reasons behind the success of your campaign(s), though.

Needless to say, tracking your data is essential, so that analysis can be done on it.  Once you uncover which donors are responding best, or to which appeals, venues, types of asks, and so forth, it pays to extend these data points even further and see what other areas they can be applied to.  Several more successes may be “uncovered” as well.

Gordon* managed a very popular signature special event for his nonprofit, and when attendees either purchased their tickets at the door, or turned in their previously purchased tickets, he had trained the ticket booth workers to ask people if they’d care to make a contribution to the organization.

Although the additional gifts made were plentiful, Gordon felt that they could be better.  There were some inherent difficulties with the set up:

•     Fewer people donated than they otherwise would, because they were anxious to enter the event, rather than stop on the way in to make a gift.
•     People likely gave lower gifts than they might, handing over cash on hand, instead of taking more time to write a check or process a credit card.
•     Because donors were in a hurry to donate and move along, the “cash in a jar” transactions didn’t allow for gift tracking or issuing of receipts to those who contributed in most cases.

With the new year’s event, Gordon added an appeal for donations with the publicity materials and the RSVP card and envelope, so that a check could be mailed back with the RSVP.  Also, since attendees could RSVP online, he worked with IT so that the online RSVP form incorporated additional fields that allowed respondents to make a donation on the same form.

Both of these modifications not only increased donations substantially, but allowed for tracking of the gifts – both to the donor and the event.

Hillary* tracked data from her past several direct mail campaigns, looking specifically at the relationship between her suggested ask amounts and the actual donated amounts.  There was a high correlation – most donors were either giving what they gave the last time, or slightly more.

Hillary decided that a second set of data was worth pulling for the next direct mail campaign.  Instead of the last gift, she pulled the largest gift from each donor and created her ask strings based upon this instead.

When she analyzed giving data from the next two mailings after using this strategy, the response was similar:  donors maintained an average gift at or above the largest gift, which substantially increased her overall average gift in the long run.

While Ian* was working on his annual revision of the organization’s acknowledgment procedure, he decided to include a soft ask in with all of the thank you letters.  He took care to make certain that the overall tone of the letter was indeed to thank the donor for the gift, but as a sort of “footnote,” he added some text at the end of each letter that let the donor know that a return envelope had been enclosed for the donor’s convenience . . . for their next gift.  In addition, a hyperlink was listed, if the preference was to make a contribution online.

Both the return envelope and the eform were distinctly coded so that gifts in response to this “acknowledgment-solicitation” could be properly tracked.  After the first year, the donations more than paid for the cost of printing and mailing all of the acknowledgments, as well as served to keep the organization in the minds of donors more frequently.

Jocelyn* had gotten a good deal of success after modifying her online giving forms so that each giving amount reflected something mission related that would be accomplished.  (e.g., “$100 will provide X hours of tutoring”)  Upon seeing this success, she applied that tactic to her direct mail pieces as well.  In addition to inserting specific ask amounts based upon giving history, she made certain that she added two tangible examples – high and low – of what contribution amounts can and will achieve, to further motivate constituents to give.

Not only did she increase her overall income and average gift, but the number of gifts and acquisition were significantly boosted when she applied this strategy.

Kenny’s* organization had good success with an annual mailing to their consecutive donors – those who gave each fiscal year without fail.  It wasn’t a large group, but sending them a letter to tell them how special they were and thanking them for their ongoing support usually resulted in a hefty amount of funds contributed.

Kenny then considered how many loyal donors his organization probably had that didn’t quite make this stringent cut, and widened the scope.  He pulled four sets of donors:  people who had contributed either 4 out of the last 6 years or 5 out of the last 7 years – and did these queries for both calendar years and fiscal years.  The range was striking:  the results spanned between 600 and 1,300 people!

“Obviously, we sent the next year’s mailing to the 1,300 people, which was more than twice the previous year’s list,” Kenny said.  “They were still loyal donors . . . just not consecutive, for one reason or another.  This strategy boosted not only our income, but recovered quite a few lapsed donors for us.”

What other ways have you found to expand on an existing successful campaign and made it even better?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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