Microtargeting is most often thought of in the political realm, where increasingly granular models are able to predict how people are going to vote and think about various issues. A good example is how Ted Cruz won Iowa: by microtargeting the interests and issues of voters down to fireworks regulation.
But you don’t have that type of time, budget, or modeling power. Yet you still want to connect with your donors in ways so that they know that you know them.
Enter the poor person’s microtargeting. We’re going to slice and dice our control letter in such a way that there’s something in it for everyone.
The important thing to remember is that the cost in customization is largely in customizing one side of a piece of paper in the mail. Online, it’s virtually nothing.* There can be some data costs, but while the maximum customization approach below may churn out thousands of different combinations of letter, it still is all very simple variables acting predictably.
So here goes the ABCs approach. Try as many of these as you can on your appeals and see how different one person’s would look from another:
Age: Does your older donor want a larger font size? Different levels of formality? Two spaces instead of one? Including the Oxford comma?
Buckslip: What could you put in the envelope, based on what you know about the donor that would make them more likely to donate? Remember, you don’t have to have it for all donors, just some…
Channel responsiveness: Don’t ask someone for their email if you already have it. But do sent them an email that support the mail package they just received.
Donation history: Putting last gift in the upper right can help bring back lapsed donors.
Event history: “You wanted with us to cure X. Now we need your help again.”
Frequency of giving: If someone is giving 4+ times per year, might now be the time to ask about that monthly giving program?
Giving history: “your gift” versus “your gifts.” Also, have they given the same amount year after year? You probably don’t need to push the upgrade. However, if they’ve been steadily rising, go for the gusto.
History with this appeal: “As someone who supported our matching gift campaign in the past…
Initiation: “your support has helped X over these past Y years” or “since you joined X years ago.”
Jargon: J is tough, so a reminder to go through your letter and remove anything that sounds like a great buzzword to you, but gobblygook to those outside your organization.
Knowledge: How much explaining do you do? Is it the same amount for someone who has read 50 letters as someone receiving their second?
Location: “we’re looking for seven dollars from XXCityXX willing to chip in…” This works.
Mission area supported: tie your ask to what they want to support.
Nicknames: Does your letter sound like it was written by C3PO: “Dear Dr. Lt. Col. R. Winthrop Huntington III, MD (ret.),”? If you tell by his checks that he actually goes by Bob, do you want to try saying “Dear Bob”?
Online activity: Mention they were a petition signer as an inducement to get them to sign an offline petition.
Postage: Send your most valuable donors’ mail first class.
Questions they’ve answered: The letter of someone whose survey said they thought it was most important you educate young people should look different from the one who said you should be advocating for better laws as a top priority, no?
Rhythm of pieces: (aka cadence, but I already had a C). Should this person even be getting this piece or are they likely to make a gift without?
Single versus multi: With singles, you can switch up the ask string. Much harder to do with multis.
Tchotchkes: Are you sending premiums to everyone? Even those people who have never responded to a premium?
Unique URLs: Not necessarily personalized URLs, but different URLs for different messaging so you can see what creates the greatest online response.
VIPs: If someone is a member of the “Founder’s Circle” or the “Legion of Good Deed Doers” or whatever it is you have, are you referencing that?
Wealth screening: You can do a higher-dollar treatment if you know a person has the capacity to make a larger gift.
seX: You didn’t think I was actually going to get a real X in here? Appeal to women’s emotions in your ask and to men’s self interest.
You: I’m cheating with this, because it’s not a customization. But it does give me the opportunity to quote Jeff Brooks’ sample fundraising ask letter, which makes me happy:
You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. Yes, you. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You.
P.S. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You.
Instructions: Liberally sprinkle in nouns and verbs. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Include specific examples of what the donor’s gift will accomplish. Include true-life stories that demonstrate the need for the donor’s involvement. Be sure to clearly and articulately ask for a gift more than once.
Someday, I’ll write a blog post that good.
Zip selects: Increase your ask string multiplier if they are from a wealthy ZIP code.
* Get it? Online? Virtually nothing? I absolutely slay me.