As George Carlin said, the trouble with experience is that we don’t get it until after we need it. Nonprofit decision-makers would love for the Great Recession to be over so they can put the bitter experience behind them, but the economy is still mired in a recovery that nobody notices.
During the DMA Nonprofit Federation conference, Craig Finstad of the American Lung Association said that his organization has learned lessons about mailing during the recession, and he passed some of those lessons along.
- If your piece is not in their mailbox, someone else’s is. The strategy is to stay in front of renewal donors. The organization resisted pressure to cut the number of appeals without testing.
- If you mail it, they will come.
- Dance with the girl who brought you. Pressure from management and complaints from donors will make you want to cut back on the number or cost of mailings or on winning packages. Resist the temptation of making changes without testing.
- Timing is everything. Economic pressure or competition might cause rethinking of mailing patterns. Consider risk vs. reward, learn from history and don’t change without testing.
- An apple a day … Keep prospecting. Organizations with healthy files will recover faster when (or if) the economy rebounds. Maximize response by trimming marginal lists. Lower baseline means higher threshold. Continue testing, carefully. Short-term gain can mean long-term pain.