Setting your direct marketing budget goals

So, you want to budget for your direct marketing…

Wait.  Scratch that.

So, you have been told to budget for your direct marketing.  None of us really want to set a budget.  Yes, you want to be able to project what communications and campaigns will do, the better to measure expectations for the future and learn from our successes and failures.

But the ideal direct marketing world would be one where there was not a number to hit, but rather a series of goals.  You would set up your communications and tests, learn from what was done, retool the program for the future given what you’ve learned, and get hot oil massages from attractive members of your preferred gender(s).

Back in the real world, though, it is imperative that our causes know what they can count on from the direct marketing program and, ideally, from the bridges you have created to events, major gifts, planned giving, monthly giving, and corporate outreach.  Someday, I will blog about multichannel attribution, just as soon as I feel like I’ve figured it out myself.  Or, to speed things up, if you think you have a handle on it, email me at nick@directtodonor.com and I would love to give you a guest blogging opportunity.

These budgets let us know what staff we can bring on, projects we can take out, people we can help.  It’s imperative that we set them and that we stick to them.

I would argue there are three relevant things for which to budget:

  1. Net revenue. Think of your direct marketing program like a black box for a moment.

    black_box-aeroplane

    No, not that type of black box.  Hopefully.  Our black box is magical.  You can put in $100,000 and get $200,000 out.  You can put in $1.8 million and get $3 million out.  And, most importantly, you can put in X and get out Y, because our magic box is algebraic.

    Your organization needs to know what Y minus X is – how much does the magic box add to the money that is put into it.  Or, but another way, this is how much extra are you contributing to the mission through your activities.

  2. Program health. Your number and quality of donors determine how good your black box is going to be in future years.  There is a point at which this conflicts with #1.  A good program will take a maximized net revenue and reinvest some of that to help sustain and grow the program in the future.  Simplistically, this means acquiring donors.  Beyond that, it also includes the tests that fail so you have the benefits of the ones that succeed, cultivation communications that may not bring in immediate revenues but set donors up for better things down the road, and other tactics that sacrifice net for lifetime value (e.g., acquisition of monthly donors).
  1. Crosschannel health. This is more difficult to measure, but it will be to your benefit to start trying.  That is, how much if what you are doing helps out with other efforts.  A good example is with planned giving efforts.  An ideal target audience for planned giving appeals are 70-plus year old “tippers,” who give to your organization often, but not much, and who have substantial assets that may not be known by your organization or even conventional wealth screening indicators (living in modest homes and neighborhood, little to no stock activities, certainly no M&A or Wall Street stuff, and few political donations).  This is also a borderline audience for most direct marketing activities – they require more expensive (mail and phone) solicitation, they are unlikely to convert to monthly giving), and models will show them to have low lifetime value.  But what value do they have in the long-run?  A focus only on net revenue and traditional RFM-based file health metrics will ignore folks like this.

Purists will note that there are several things that are traditionally part of a budget that I don’t include here.  But that’s tomorrow’s post – the things that people think matter, but don’t.

Setting your direct marketing budget goals

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