Myths Of Donor Acquisition Fundraising

April 20, 2011       Samuel Fanburg      

There’s no end to the urban legends and myths when it comes to fundraising.

Here are truths associated with acquisition fundraising including the amount of testing an acquisition program goes through, list testing, telemarketing, donors acquired online and premiums increasing an organization’s file size.

The ideas are from a fundamentals session during the recent in Washington, D.C. The panelists were Shannon McCracken of Special Olympics in Washington, D.C., and Karin Kirchoff of MINDset direct in Arlington, Va.

Seen as the building blocks of any nonprofit, acquisition fundraising is not only important in funding programs, but it is the backbone of donor pools that will (hopefully) support organizations for years to come. Although testing control packages might seem expensive, presenters advocated for vigorous testing of control acquisition packages and offered a few suggestions:

  • The best time for testing is when a control package is working well. Dedicate 10 to 20 percent of every acquisition effort (expenses/volume) to testing. Look over your house file mail for new ideas when something is working well, but test those changes; and,
  • Constantly test tweaks to your control to extend its life.

List testing is another aspect that was debunked by the presentation.Whereas many would only test their lists once, list testing through an acquisition campaign was highly recommended with a few suggestions:

  • Validate your metrics of success through campaign ROI vs. long-term value;
  • Understand and refine your selects; and,
  • Profile existing donors and consider modeling.

Telemarketing calls, they can be extremely useful in donor acquisition. There are several things to keep in mind when utilizing this tool:

  • Call warm prospects (online activists, petition signers, etc);
  • Use it to reinstate deep lapsed formal donors;
  • Analyze your telemarketing results took at both initial ROI and LTV; and
  • Telemarketing is no longer a stand-alone channel, strategically integrate this tool and it will work.

As fundraising efforts move from the mailbox to email inbox, there is a notion that donors acquired online will only ever renew online. Although this has been true for many nonprofits, once these online donors are folded into a multichannel renewal program the donors can be contacted in multifaceted ways:

  • Set up dedicated URLs on direct mail to track online gifts;
  • Matchback online giving to acquisition lists to identify donors who don’t use dedicated URLs;
  • Mail to warm prospects;
  • Email your online activists with appeal and joint messaging.
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