Easter Reading Round-Up
How 'Relationship Fundraising' changed my life!

How many donors do you REALLY have?

I've recently stopped writing to around 3000 'donors' and somehow managed to raise more net income from my latest appeal.

Am I a miracle worker? No.  It is just the fact that they weren't really donors in the first place...

It can some times be hard to let go of people on your database and stop writing to them, but you have to do it.

My charity is probably an extreme case, as once you had given to us you were classed as a 'donor' and received every mailing until you told us to stop or (as was usually the case) died. 

The worst example I've found is someone who gave £5.00 in 1995 and has since received 73 mailings without giving again.  Mark eloquently explains the problems with this approach in his 'Tragedy of the Commons' post.

Using the excuse that they might give again or they could be legacy prospects isn't good enough.  When I did some analysis on these past donors and the response rates then we'd been losing money for years by continually mailing them and would never re-coup that investment.

What I did for the latest appeal is to simply split the file into three segments.

  1. People who had given after 2010
  2. People who gave in 2008 and 2009.
  3. People who had given at least five times, but whose last gift was before 2008.  

I used some extra personalisation to customise the asks, but essentially that was it.

The results?

I spent 33% less.

Net Income was about 20% up.

The first segment responded at 30%, the second at just over 5% and the bottom at 2% (still losing money overall).  I'm convinced we can improve these figures even further in the future by amending the bottom segment and reducing the number and type of mailings to them.

Now, before you get too excited with the 30% response rate read Jeff's post on donor retention.  He describes perfectly the problem we have:

"One of the hallmarks of a dying donor file is amazing retention rates, superb campaign response, and other excellent loyalty measurements. These numbers all get better and better as the file atrophies. When you aren't getting new donors, those who stay with you longest are your elite, the real believers."

So, my next challenge is how to attract new supporters to the charity!