Implications of more donors versus better donors

Let’s say you’ve organizationally had the debate that we’ve been following the past three days and you have come down on the side of better donors: you’ve taken into account all of the long-time and non-financial benefits of lower-dollar donors and still can’t make the average $10 or less donor work for you organizationally.

Here are the steps you can take in your program to skew your results toward getting fewer, better donors.  Note that if you decide the other way — neither of these approaches are right or wrong — just do the opposite of everything listed below.

Up your ask strings.  As we’ve seen in two different studies of ask strings (here and here), increasing the bottom number on your ask string increases average gift.  If you are in a Pareto efficient model like we talked about on Monday, there will likely be a resultant decrease in response rate.  

Like this study indicates, I would do this with single donors and not try to get my multi-donors to elevate when they aren’t ready to.  There, I think you would be wise to keep the highest previous contribution as the base donation, but increase your multiply.

Change your defaults.  This can be the default online (where you have the radio button start on $50 instead of $25) or the amount you circle on a direct mail piece with the social proof “Most people give X”.  Moving the default up should get you fewer higher-value donors.

Move up your list selects.  When you rent or exchange with outside lists, even if a list works well for you with no qualifier on it, you can request only $5+ or $10+ donors to that organization.  It will cost a little bit more to get that list, but you will be able to cut some of the potential tippers out of your program.

Incidentally, there is a trick you can do here with a list that performs well and offers a higher-value list select (say, $50+): rent the list twice.  Once, rent it with a $10+ select and the other with a $50+ select.  Then, you can separate out your ask strings to those two lists and mail the $50+ list twice (like multis) with an appropriate ask string.

Work with your modeling agencies and coops.  They will be more than happy to build you a model that maximizes gift instead of maximizes response rates.

Invest in telemarketing upgrades.  Upgrading seems to work better when people talk with other people.  I would counsel doing this with a monthly giving ask with the appropriate audience — it’s literally the gift that keeps on giving.

Shift your lapsed reacquisition selects.  Because you “own” those names, you have the most freedom to play around with who you are trying to reacquire.  You may be able to change the complexion of your file by communicating less deeply (say, moving from 12 months to six months) among under $10 and more deeply (say, moving from 36 months to 48 months) among your $50+ donors.

Use ZIP modeling.  This can work with both acquisition and donor communications.  In both cases, you can get more aggressive about your ask strings with wealthy ZIP codes.  In acquisition, you may even choose to omit the bottom half (or whatever) percent of ZIP codes from some lists.  As with tighter donation selects, you will pay a bit more for those names, but you will get higher average gifts.

Invest in your second gift apparatus.  This is probably a good idea regardless, but if you are going to bleeding donors intentionally, you are going to need a way to make sure you are converting those you do bring on.  This may be an investment you only make for $20+ donors or the like, but a welcome series for this audience will help you keep the donors you want to keep.

Thanks for reading.  Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to keep up with the latest debate.

Also, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know at nick@directtodonor.com if you like the debate format.  If so, we can try this with some other hot topics in nonprofit direct marketing.  If not, then we need never speak of this again.

Implications of more donors versus better donors

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