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Karen Taggart 5 min read

Five Tips for Online Fundraisers from a Direct Mail Dinosaur

515229-1121188-thumbnail.jpgCode, code, and code some more:  Think about the type of data that may affect the success of future fundraising efforts and make sure to code your contacts and gifts in such a way that this data is easily accessible.

You may find that leads from a certain original source are more likely to upgrade, and therefore should be put immediately into an upgrade track while others are more interested in online activism and then a year-end ask.  Or perhaps people who renew to your first efforts in the mail are more likely to make an appeal gift online.  The key is to plan ahead and make your coding systems as consistent and descriptive as possible.

  • 515229-1121201-thumbnail.jpgAnalyze your returns at the end of a series:  With everyone struggling to both recruit new donors and retain the ones we already have, it is critical to evaluate the success of not only single fundraising efforts, but also the combination of efforts that form a series.

    Consider testing a conversion series for your online leads that tests the first two or three or even six contacts a lead receives --- and look at the combined results.  Which brought on more new donors?  Which had the lowest investment per donor?  Which had the lowest unsubscribe rate?  And follow these new donors through a year of resoliciations.

  • 515229-1121209-thumbnail.jpgEvaluate success based on long-term ROI and net, not just gross revenue: Sometimes it is actually worth it in the long- run to invest more per initial donor if it means they will stay on the file, give through multiple channels and continue to give in years to come.

    Don’t call an initial campaign a failure if it only converts 0.3% of your online leads (Yes, direct mailers, that number is okay in online acquisition!) and don’t automatically call an online appeal a run away success if it raises 20% more revenue than your previous appeal.  Consider how many emails were sent?  What costs went into the appeal (And yes, direct mailers, there are costs associated with online appeals!)?  It is vital to look at the long term donor value of your recruits and how that relates to the initial investment.  Investing $24 in a donor who will be worth over $120 in a 24-month period looks great --- whereas a “loss” of $24 per person on a single campaign looks horrendous.

  • We are at a critical stage right now for nonprofits – donors are expecting more from us and at the same time competition in the market place continues to grow at a blistering pace.  If we want to succeed, we must do more than merely think about what makes each of our groups remarkable… we must employ direct marketing techniques, both in the "new" and “old” media, to promote our uniqueness and raise the funds necessary to make our missions a reality.

    And we must learn from each other – so, who among the online cool-kids will step up and tell the direct mail dinosaurs what we can learn from you?

    -Karen Taggart, aka the DMDivaGirl, is Director of Nonprofit Serices at Care2.  She can be reached at karen[at]earth.care2.com.