Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers



: serious and quiet because you are thinking: done or made after careful thinking   : done or made after careful thinking: showing concern for the needs or : showing concern for the needs of feelings of other people

We live and die by the U.S. Postal System

So what about the mail? There has been lots of coverage on the slowdown by the USPS and the reasons. I am not going to get into that, but it does annoy me when the press talks about the slow down, and after they mention the most critical piece of mail in the near future - election ballots - they show great concern for every type of mail except non-profit mail. Even with online giving growing, direct mail is still the mLocked USPS Mial Boxost important way non-profits connect with donors and receive contributed income.

The non-profits I have been talking to seem to ignore the issue, panicking, or making thoughtful plans. Let's look at the thoughtful plans some are looking at pursuing. One organization is looking at continuing their direct mail program but scaling it back a bit. They are mailing to all of their renewals and doing deep lapsed mailings, and where they might have mailed two hundred thousand pieces of acquisition mail, they are only doing a hundred thousand pieces. They are looking at using the saving from the mailing to try an email acquisition. This type of acquisition can be tricky. Believe it or not, there are more rules about sending emails then there are for postal mail.

The media has moved past the postal system on to new intrigues, but we still need to be confident that our Year-End direct mail pieces will arrive on time. It seems all we can do is plan on mailing early, receiving gifts late and hope that this is the year the email solicitation really breaks through for the average non-profit.


An oldie but a goodie - this one is always true.

What Counts and What You Should Count 

I love counting things especially donations. But there are lots of other great things to count. First, you should count the number of gifts, the number of donors, average gift, the frequency of giving, CPDR, and ROI. But you can also count things like acquisition source, Package type, Personalization level, and stamp/indicia type. Zipcodes, age estimates, and rate of return by date.

If you have a robust, mature acquisition program, zip codes can be a great resource. At one organization after four years of running a traditional acquisition program, I started diving into my zipcodes. First I ran a report that counted how many gifts I had gotten in the last three years by zip code. Then I look at just the top 20 zip codes. These were the ones with the most gifts in them. I was very surprised by what I found.

Now a couple of things were not surprising. The area around the organization's headquarters and the area around our biggest program had lots of gifts. No surprise there.

But, I could have hardly expected that in a single neighborhood nowhere near our programs I had a very large number of gifts. Not only were there lots of gifts but when I looked at gift history and frequency, these donors were really coming through for the organization.

I used a census tracking program that I found online to see who lived in that zip code area. What I found were single-family homes, not a lot of kids and older adults. BINGO.

To test my theory that there were more people like the ones were already giving we did a carrier route presort acquisition mailing with personalization. What that means is that we mailed to 100k people who lived in the zip code area simply because they lived near other donors. We used are basic acquisition letter and made sure that the letter didn't just say "CURRENT OCCUPANT" but had the residents name on it. This cost a few cents more, but we thought it would be worth it. We could have tested and randomly sent some each way, but we preferred to err on the side on personalization.

How well did we do? When compared to our regular acquisition program the carrier route mailing did significantly better. Now should you just do carrier route and not use a more thoughtful acquisition program - nope you sure don't. This should just be one tool that you can use to maximize your acquisition program.

If we hadn't counted zip codes, we would never have known about a pool of great prospects waiting to hear from us.

You should count people with old-looking handwriting. Planned Giving prospects have to come from somewhere.


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