Online-offline translation guide for acquisition

When I was an exchange student in Japan, I carried a pocket-size English-Japanese dictionary with me.  (Pocket sized to make sure that it never had quite the word I needed, causing me to resort to “large bald person’s religion’s house” when I wanted to find the Buddhist temple.  I quite possibly offended the entire nation and thus apologize here for my adolescent self.*)

Recently witnessing a conversation between two people– one an older direct mail veteran; the other, a digital native online community builder who may never have seen a piece of paper – put me in mind of those days of mistranslation and bumbling.  They never seemed to grasp that one man’s teaser copy was another woman’s pre-header (or close enough to be getting along with).  Thus, they talked past each other and went their separate ways thinking the other was an idiot, even though they seemed to my ears to be agreeing.

Thus, this week, I’d like to try for some peace, love, and understanding between the often warring nations of offline and online.  Or at least the understanding part.

We’ll start with one of the simplest areas of cultural differences: acquisition.

Those who have been weaned on online will find the offline acquisition culture strange and terrifying.  Most notably, they trade and rent acquisition lists from each other!

For those in the offline world, don’t suggest this as a tactic for your online brethren.  Not only is it illegal (sending unsolicited emails is called spam and it’s even less appetizing than its namesake), but it is culturally not done in the online world.  (Yes, the cultural taboos are even worse than the legal ones.)

Despite, or because of, these differences, however, there is a lot that each tribe can learn from the other.

For online folks, just because you can’t and shouldn’t exchange or rent lists online doesn’t mean that you can’t create mutually beneficial relationships.  You can do this through shepherded emails.  Let’s say another nonprofit has a similar constituents or issue area to you.  You might consider sending an email to your list saying, in essence, that if you like us, you might like them.  And vice versa (of course; there is no quo within the quid).

Similarly, you might try engaging your corporate partners to see if they will run a shepherded email for you to their constituents, urging them to engage with you.  This has its own built-in incentives — the for-profit looks like the valuable philanthropic member of the community they are and you reap the list building benefits.

For offline folks who think the no-list exchange or retail rules are overly puritanical, know that an opt-in model for mail is on the visible horizon.  For those in the US, our friends in Europe are facing this by virtue of EU/UK regulations.  (How politicians justify themselves being able to send mail as they wish with opt-in only for nonprofits baffles me, but I suppose that’s what happens when you write the laws yourself.)

And opting in does provide a stronger bond between you and the donor or potential donor.  Thus, you can learn from your online partners how to build that bond.  Some tips:

  • As we’ve advocated, make sure you are setting expectations for what communications a person will receive in your welcome series.
  • Make it easy for a person to change the frequency, timing, and/or nature of their communications.  One tactic smart online folks will do is have multiple lists for which someone can subscribe.  If a communication is not to the person’s liking, they can be removed from those emailings without losing a constituent.  If a person does not want (for example) premiums, they should be able to request that and have it be honored.
  • Make it easy to opt-out with clearly visible instructions.  A person who asks to be taken off of your mailing list is doing you a favor (not as much of one as they might have done, but a favor nonetheless).  They could simply let you mail away and waste your money, but instead, they are helping you save it.  Help them help you.
  • Get your list through organic means.  Online and offline content can help you build a subscriber and constituent list.  This content marketing isn’t good for just online activation — it can be used for mailing as well.

Hopefully, these will help you discuss acquisition fluently across channels.  Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the cost implications from offline and online, using fun and exciting terms like “marginal costs.”  You won’t want to miss it.

 

* Of course, if I’m apologizing for my adolescent self, we’re talking about way more people than just the entire nation of Japan…

Online-offline translation guide for acquisition

Mental accounting and nonprofit giving

Back in March, we looked at how people have different mental buckets for their expenses.  Certain amounts are set aside for home expenses, car expenses, utilities, entertainment, education, etc.  And there’s a bucket for many for charitable giving.  We talked about this in the context that you can (sometimes) get someone to make a gift they wouldn’t normally make by framing it as an exceptional expense — something they wouldn’t normally budget for.

Since then, there’s been a more in-depth look at mental accounting in nonprofit giving.  Monica LaBarge and Jeffrey Stinson published an article called “The Role of Mental Budgeting in Philanthropic Decision-Making,” as well as doing a podcast about it that you can listen to here.

Some key highlights from how people mentally account for their donations:

  • Generally, people substitute one charitable act for another, not for a non-charitable act.  That is, people substitute sports for movies or church giving for alma mater giving, but they don’t generally substitute movies for church giving.
  • The amount allocated to charitable giving is usually at about 10%.  It’s interesting to hear this, as this is the amount often suggested by religious institutions as the amount to give to them; generally, however, it seems to be a rule of thumb for charitable giving.  Even non-religious givers centered around 10%.
  • Interestingly, tickets to galas and events can be considered charitable gifts or in other buckets.  One donor to whom the researchers spoke talked about how buying a table for a gala was a business expense because that was his goal in sponsoring.  In the next breath, he talked about giving to an organization through a ticket purchase because he knew the person being honored.  Thus, it’s important to understand how the giver classifies their giving to you.  You may be able to take multiple buckets to maximize your giving.
  • The happier people are with their giving to you, the more they are able to give.  This sounds obvious, but when someone enjoys giving to you, they are willing to dip into other buckets (like entertainment) that may not normally be open to you.
  • You may be able to work with business people who support your organization to sponsor in ways that help their business, giving you access to their business budgets.  Focusing just on philanthropic giving caps your upside with your donors.

Much of this comes back to the dictum “know thy donor” — the more you know about how your donors think of you and their experiences with you, the better off you are.

Mental accounting and nonprofit giving

Using non-donor knowledge to enhance segmentation

Yesterday, we introduced you to two special people that a traditional RFM analysis would group as 4-6 month $25-49.99 multis.  To wit:

Since Sandy first donated to your organization in 1992, she’s given over 100 gifts.  Nothing exorbitant – she’s now giving $30 every three or four months – but she also has volunteered, come to three walks, signed up for emails, and taken almost every advocacy action you offer.

On the other hand, you acquired Miriam from an outside list in 2012.  She gave $25, but nothing since then.  You don’t have her email or phone number, but a last chance lapsed package piqued her interest four months ago and she gave another $25.

We talked about how their donation history can and should differentiate them.  There are additional indicators here, however, that can also enhance your messaging and segmentation:

Online interactions.  If someone is active online, it’s relatively simple to group their interests by their activity – what they click on, look at, and interact with.  (Actually, technically, interact with is the easiest, click on is slightly harder, and look at can be a bear with some online tools.)

With Sandy, she is an advocate for you and doesn’t seem to require premiums to donate – perhaps you can replace the labels in that upcoming package with a paper version of an action alert – cheaper, and likely more effective.

Other organizational interactions.  Sandy has been a walker – do you want to mention that your walk is coming up in 90 days in the PS or in a buckslip?  Similarly, you should probably customize the messaging to acknowledge that she has given her time as well as her donations.  Making her feel known will only help her loyalty.

Outside data.  Getting outside data on your donors can help you adapt your tactics.  If you find out that Miriam does all of her banking online, perhaps she’s a better target for an EFT-based monthly gift than you thought (with the right messaging).

List co-operative data may indicate that that she gives to nine other charities far more often and more generously than to you.  Perhaps she’s just not that into you and you might want to cut your losses soon than you might have thought.

You may find out she does a lot of business on the telephone and find that it isn’t your organization that wasn’t lighting her up; it was the means by which you were approaching her.

All this and more can come from data appends.  And you can try to get that email address and engage her online, so hopefully you can learn more about her.

All of this – donor and non-donor interactions – are masked by an overarching RFM category.  But what if we could dispense with RFM categories altogether?  We’ll talk about that Friday; if you don’t want to miss it, or any of our Direct to Donor posts, please sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

Using non-donor knowledge to enhance segmentation

Including loyalty in your beyond-RFM segmentation

Since Sandy first donated to your organization in 1992, she’s given over 100 gifts.  Nothing exorbitant – she’s now giving $30 every three or four months – but she also has volunteered, come to three walks, signed up for emails, and taken almost every advocacy action you offer.

On the other hand, you acquired Miriam from an outside list in 2012.  She gave $25, but nothing since then.  You don’t have her email or phone number, but a last chance lapsed package piqued her interest four months ago and she gave another $25.

What do these two have in common?

They look the same on a traditional RFM analysis: they are both 4-6 month $25-49.99 multis.

And if you use only a traditional RFM analysis, you will treat them the same.

That’s silly.  If you were looking only at these paragraphs to judge, Sandy would seem to be a good candidate for monthly giving, upgrade strategies, and/or planned giving.  Miriam probably has a 50-50 chance (or worse, given industry averages of lapsed reactivated retention rates) of never giving you another gift.

It’s easy to criticize this, but harder to do this analysis writ large, when you are doing five-to-seven-figure list selects.  So how do you draw these lines?  Here are a few ideas:

Lifecycle analysis.  Way back when (November 2015 – ah, those were the days), we talked about how there isn’t just one retention rate – there are several, based on where a person is in their donor journey.

This lifecycle analysis can layer on to your segmentation analysis and on to your messaging.  Some sample categories:

  • New.  What it says on the tin.
  • 1st year.  They have given a second gift, but it’s been less than 12 months since their first gift.
  • 2nd year.  Gifts in their first two years.
  • Core: Donors who have given in each of the past three 12-month periods
  • Lapsed: A gift 13-24 months ago.
  • Deep lapsed: A gift 25+ months ago.
  • Lapsed reactivated: Someone who has given a gift in the past 12 months after a gap of at least a 12-month period

Your mileage and organization may vary – it’s more important to look at this analysis than it is to have the same precise categories.

So you may not have a separate piece for Sandy, but you might want to make sure there is language like “As one of our most loyal donors” or “You’ve stood with us for more than 20 years.” or the like in the existing piece.

As for Miriam, as a lapsed reactivated donor, you are still worried that you might lose her again.  Perhaps you want to stay close to the tactics that recruited her (or won her back or both).  She might also be worth an e-append or phone append to see if you can find a channel that further engages her.  Or maybe you want to use a less aggressive ask string – your goal for a lapsed reactivated donor is to make donating a habit again, rather than to increase their giving just yet.

Gift density.  Take a look at the number of gifts someone has made, then divide by the number of years since a person’s first gift.  This is how many gifts you will get from them in an average year (or at least what you have received).

Sandy’s number is above four.  Four is a bit of a magic number (some would say three or even two– again, having a number is more important than what the number actually is) to indicate strong likelihood of monthly giving.  When someone has a pattern of giving frequently, this ask isn’t nearly the heavy lift it is trying to get someone to go from one gift per year to twelve.

Miriam is below one.  One is a separate magic number, as below one indicates a likelihood to lapse (by definition, they’ve done it at least once)  That should trigger some of the anti-lapse efforts discussed above.

One is also a magic number in that if someone gives you exactly one gift per year (and they’ve been with you a few years), that’s the bucket they see you in.  So, if they look unlikely to upgrade and they look unlikely to increase the frequency of gifts, the only other way to increase their lifetime value (other than increasing their retention rate) is to decrease costs.  Let’s say you send an average of 14 mail pieces per year and do two telemarketing cycles.  This person probably can decrease this substantially and save costs.

Longevity.  Length of donation is something that should be honored.  Not only are milestone anniversary notes and certificates and the like a good thing to do from a moral and ethos perspective, but they will also make sure that your most loyal donors know that you know they are important to you.

Channel responsiveness.  Change your tactics to suit the terrain.

All of these are even more important when looking at borderline segments.  Should you mail the 13-18 $15-$19.99 multis?  Maybe just those that have been with you five years or more?  Or with previous high gift densities?  Or just mail responsive?

But there’s more to it than even that; tomorrow, we’ll talking about using other interactions with your organization to define and customize.

Including loyalty in your beyond-RFM segmentation

Creating useful donor surveys

In my DMA Leadership Conference talk, I said that people who listened to what donors say they want in donor surveys deserve to be lied to.  That was obviously too harsh – what I should have said is that they deserved to be misled.

Because people (not just donors, but all human beings*) aren’t meaning to lie to you; they just don’t know what their true motivation is.  As we’ve seen, emotional reaction happens 6000 times faster than rational thought.  So unless someone is doing System Two thought, where they are rationally considering all alternatives, the role reason plays in this process is coming up with the best possible justification of a decision already made.

Consider a study that asked people to rank their top 16 motivations.  Sex was rated #14; wealth was dead last.  Then they looked at actual subconscious motivators of decisions.  Sex was rated #1 and wealth was rated #5.

This should be considered no surprise to people who have met, well, ya know, people.  But it was a surprise to people themselves, who think themselves chaise and uncorruptable, but in reality dream of having very special moments in Scrooge McDuck’s vault.

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But that doesn’t mean all donor surveys are bad – far from it.  It just means that, in a statement that may get me arrested by the Tautology Police**:

Bad donor surveys are bad.  Good donor surveys are good.

Common traps in donor surveys:

  • Talking only to current donors. You want to talk to people who stopped giving as well, to the extent that they will talk to you.  After all, you are looking for the difference between these two groups.  Trying to define who your good donors are without talking to former donors is like saying the reason that Fortune 500 companies are successful is because they have employees and offices.
  • Asking donors to analyze why they did what they did. They don’t know.  So they are going to try to figure out what answer someone like them would generally say or what they think you want to hear.  Neither is helpful to you.
  • Asking donors what is most important to them. Clearly, from the above, the answer is sex.  Looking only at your limited options, however, they will probably make mistakes in determining what is important to them, similar to the poor people who thought that sex and wealth (aka Genie Wishes #1 and #2) didn’t impact them.

So how do you construct a survey that gets to these important points?  You are going to set up your survey so that you can run a regression analysis.****  If you need help with how to do this, check out our post on basic regression.

You will need a dependent variable.  Ideally, this will be donation behavior because it is a clear expression of the behavior you are trying to impact.  If not, an overall satisfaction score with the organization will be generally OK, as it should correlate strongly with donation behavior.

For your independent variables, ask about aspects of your organization.  So, for example, “have you ever called X Organization about your donations?”, “did you receive a thank you note for each donation you made?”, “have you been to X Web site”, “how many days did it take for you to get your thank you note on your last gift?”, etc.

The powerful thing about regression analysis is that it will help you figure out both how people feel about their experience and how important that experience is to them?  For example, my guess is that for most organizations, the number of days it took to get a thank you will be a good predictor of retention.  Since the analysis tells you the strength of that association, you can invest the right amount of resources into that area versus new donor welcome packages or donor relations staff or database infrastructure and the like.


* Yes, non-donors are also considered human beings – just slightly lesser ones.

** Motto: Enforcing through enforcement since Socrates.***

*** Former motto: Our motto is our motto.

**** Or other modeling if you are feeling fancy.

Creating useful donor surveys

An short update on promiscuously charitable donors

First, I need to acknowledge a mistake. A much beloved former board member called me on the phrase “charitably promiscuous” on Tuesday. In thinking more about this, this probably should have been “promiscuously charitable” in order to mean what I meant to mean. As it stands, I’m probably going to have some interesting search engine implications for a while.

So I’m leaving it there — as it isn’t my goal to rewrite history — but admit my mistake here.

Second, I received in my inbox Wednesday an email from Apogee talking about results from a new study they did of ten non-profits’ donor bases. They looked at these donors’ behavior in their cooperative. Their results?

“On average, within the past year these 24-month donors have given to 3 charities. Over their lifetime in Apogee, they’ve given to 10 charities.”

“Approximately 70% to 80% of these donors have made a contribution within their core category in the past 12 months, but at least 10% of each organization’s 24-month donors donated to six other categories as well within the past year.”

“On average, only 31% of the total amounts contributed by each organization’s donors were made within category. The percentages fluctuated with 26% being the lowest and 46.5% being the highest.”

The full study is gated, but you can sign up to receive it here.  Don’t worry: there is an opt-out link should you wish it.

So, however you want to say it, our donors give to a lot of different organizations, some related to our cause, some not.  Since I was using older data on Tuesday to make this point, I wanted to give out a quick update.

An short update on promiscuously charitable donors

Using your real estate better: reply devices

When people in your organization review a mail piece, people expend sound, fury, and energy on the teaser copy, the word choice in the letter, and the photographs used.  

But I bet you could send around a reply envelope with the wrong return address on it and have no one notice it.  I’ve actually done this test, albeit unintentionally; I am not immune.  I caught the error in the final proof process, meaning I missed it twice before.

This is where you, as the direct marketing expert, justify your salary.  Anyone can go through a letter with a red pen and choose their own favorite words.  You get to do the unsexy things that will get results.

And the reply device is probably the unsexiest thing in mail, which is saying something.  If your mail piece were the crack spy team, the reply device would the guy in the van.

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“You know what? I’m sick of being in the van. You guys are going to be in the van next time. I’ve been in the van for 15 years, Harry.”

— Gib,  True Lies

It’s also where a mail piece is one and lost.  And it’s a place where you can implement your priorities where no one will yell boo.

So, some ideas:

  • Anchoring.  We’ve talked a bit about this here and the science of ask strings here.  However, there’s a wonderful SOFII article about the making of a mail piece here  that explains the below the reply device.

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    Did you notice the $6518 option?  Not only is that a nice high anchor that people are giving toward, but they find that some people actually give that.  From the SOFII piece:

    There is, however, one twist: there is an option to donate a sum of $6,518. We put that figure in because it is the actual average cost of granting a wish. Every now and then, when I’ve done that before, you find a donor who is willing to donate at that level. We did this once for a hospital when the price point for a piece of equipment was $6,942.73. Thirteen people “bought” this device. These donors upgraded from an average of $65 to nearly $7,000. It never hurts to ask.

    Good for you, Make-A-Wish!

  • Ask for more information about a donor.  Your mind must always be in two places about a donor or prospect: where they are now and where there are the possibilities of them going. One opportunity is for this donor to become a multichannel donor; to do that, you need an email address or phone number.  And, while you can append these data, this has costs both in money and in not learning what method(s) by which your donor wants to be contacted.

  • Ask about other opportunities.  Would this donor be interested in more information about becoming a monthly donor, leaving your organization in their will, or donating a used car?  You will never know unless you ask.

  • Customize based on what you already know.  Usually, reply devices are mass printed, which seems to be a missed opportunity.  If you already have the person’s email address or phone number, you shouldn’t ask again.  Likewise, if someone has ignored your checkbox for planned giving five times in a row, perhaps a monthly giving offer is more her/his speed.

There’s also the reply envelope; if the reply device is the guy in the van, the envelope is the guy in the van’s intern.  Usually these are blank.  However, messaging on the envelope can:

  • Reinforce the person’s decision to donate with trust indicators like the BBB seal.
  • Build urgency with messages like “Rush this envelope to save lives.”
  • Spread program awareness (e.g., “If you or a loved one has been affected by X, please call our hot line at 800-XXX-XXXX”)
  • Help with the program allocation of your mail piece in joint cost allocation.  (For those not familiar with this procedure, you should be looking at each of your pieces and determining what percentage of this content is for each of your programs and what is fundraising for the purposes of your tax returns.  Additional program messaging on the envelope gives a slight boost to the programmatic content.)

Just because the reply mechanisms don’t have as much messaging doesn’t mean that you still can’t make them work for you.  Hopefully, these tips have helped you customize your reply so that you can get more replies.

Using your real estate better: reply devices