Thursday, February 26, 2009

Your next appeal mailing

Despite the economy, many charities are still doing better this year than last.

There are examples all over the world.

So how can they do that when there are so many charities saying things are much worse?

It can only be about tactics. There are lots of documents about strategy - here is a short bunch of tactical tips for your next mail appeal.

1) Personalise the ask amount, and put a personalised ask throughout the copy of the letter, that is, mail-merge the whole letter. “Please send $75 by 20 August...” where the $75 is 1.3 to 1.5 times the donor’s previous gift.

2) Have a deadline and a target in your letter.

3) Sandwich your mailings with email . Don’t replace your mailing with email to save money (it costs less and will raise less) but do a pre-email ' 'there is an important letter coming, please read it...' and a post email reminder driving to a specific landing page with all your appeals.

4) Consider pre- or post-mailing phone calls for top tier donors. Ring them, be nice and ask for their usual gift. At least 80 per cent of your money will come from just 20 per cent of your donors. Call those donors.

5) Apply the Pareto principle. Get the best pack, at any cost - and mail it to as many as you can afford to, rather than choosing the numbers to mail and designing a pack to fit that budget. It is nearly always better to mail a $3 pack to 10,000 people than a $1 pack to 30,000 - provided the $3 pack is better! Design the high value pack first, and make the low value pack a version of that rather than the other way. Put 80 per cent of your effort into the high value pack.

6) Consider Express Post Envelopes / DHL / Fed Ex for top 100 people if you can have an urgent deadline.

7) Send a follow up mailing to your best donors – non-responders and responders.

8) Spend 80 per cent of your precious time on the copy and 80 per cent of that on the letter. The letter is the most important thing in your direct mail packs.

9) Make sure the letter looks like a letter on headed paper and the response mechanism (which can be pretty or dull) flows from the letter and reinforces the appeal.

10) Ensure you have a wonderful case study / story with a beginning, middle and end. Not just statistics. Time and time again, personal stories have been shown to hammer statistics and internal jargon. And put personal detail in the story, make it more real.

An eight year old boy who has an epileptic fit six times a day is sad.

But when he shares with the donor that his biggest fear is peeing himself in front of his mates, and that they then tease him - that is personal.

11) Do what is right, not what is easy. Argue with the boss to put in those killer lines “Please call me on my direct line to discuss the mailing.” To quote Mark Philips from UK charity agency bluefrog "Embrace the hassle."

12) Don't worry about ROI or Cost of Fundraising - be driven by NET income; right now that is what your organisation needs more than anything else.

Be one of those charities raising more from their next mailing than last year.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fat Cats abandon World Vision

According to an AP report, Wall St Fat Cats didn't contribute the big gifts World Vision is used to getting. But the charity, quick off the block to reduce the impact of losing donors to the economic mess called sponsors and offered them a sabbatical.

No results of the calling here, but it would be good to hear other stories of success or failure along those lines.

Also, it would appear than soe of the big International NGOs like Oxfam are being hit harder by currency fluctuation than by the actual economy.

Good article - check it out here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Christmas 2008 appeals and the recession - Results

Thanks for those who sent results in. I didn’t get a statistically useful sample beyond Australia, and only have data from Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and NZ.

One NZ charity and a large Canadian charity were both up 40-50% on Christmas 2007, which I think bucks the trend, but need more Canadian and Kiwi data. A small Canadian charity raised almost the same as 2007, and a medium sized HK charity was 40% down on last year – but their 2007 appeal beat their previous record by over 4 times. They were expecting a lower return regardless of economy, and Christmas 2008 is still one of their best results ever.

The lesson here is that regardless of the impact of the economic meltdown, it is possible to use tactics to beat the downturn.

The Canadian charity is especially interesting.

They implemented a new approach to mail appeals with some of the well published and proven direct mail techniques including, but not limited to:

1) Increase in personalisation, including personalised ask amounts based on previous giving throughout the letter copy as well as response coupon.

2) Much longer letter, that looked like a letter (4 pages).

3) Separate full page response coupon.

4) Urgent call to action throughout the copy.

5) Full on, emotional case study with clear call to action.

The increased cost of the pack were well out-weighed by the huge increase in net income. The Slideshare presentation below expands on the tactics which have worked for many charities in the past, and still seen to be working in this economic climate.

Any more case studies or results, please let me know.

A separate, more detailed blog on the Australian results will be posted later this week.

(The presentation below was originally presented at the Passion Forward fundraising conference in the Philippines).


Calling Australian Charities


I encourage Australian charities to complete the Givewell survey here. Givewell are a great bunch, dedicated to constant research of the Australian charity sector.

Hopefully Givewell will press release the results so that I can link to the final report.



Thursday, February 5, 2009

Subjective presumptions kill charities

Tough times mean charities need to do what all evidence and points to being the right thing, and not let subjective presumptions drive fundraising decisions.

I come across many charities around the world who are complaining about the current economic woes but refusing to take certain actions. Fellow fundraisers - we don't have the luxury of being able to avoid things because we don't like them.

Some examples of things that on balance, fundraisers who deal with large scale donor programs should do but often don't. They are usually stopped from doing so for unsubstantiated reasons from often ill-informed people who say things like 'well I wouldn't like to be telephoned at 7pm when I am in the middle of making dinner' as a reason to block a telephone upgrade program.

Each one of these five - if done professionally - has tons of evidence in its favour, from well known experienced gurus and fundraising 'experts' as well as normal hard working evidence based fundraisers. There are counter arguements to each - in brackets, but the evidence against for each of these is pretty weak.

1) Regular giving program - the biggest revolution in fundraising for European, Australian, Hong Kong, Canadian and more but not huge in USA yet.

('It will harm our Christmas appeal' / 'It will harm our lottery')

2) Face to face / direct dialogue - the driver behind the biggest revolution. Asking people on the street / mall or at the doorstep to sign up to a regular gift.

('I just don't like it, the idea of being harrassed on the street' / 'It will damage our reputation')

3) Tele-marketing - proven to be the most effective way to ask regular givers to give more per month, provide donor care and general tool for relationship building.

('I just don't like it', 'It is expensive')

4) Reciprocal mailings / swaps - Exchanging data sets between charities, achieves 3-10x better results that buying cold lists.

('It is illegal' /'It harms my database')

5) Longer letters - Letters need to be as long as they need to be to tell a story with a begining, middle and end, contain a strong proposition, and respect the donor. With the right tactics, they work better, negating the additional costs with extra income.

('I would never read it' / 'too expensive')

Times are tough, and often internal wrangling makes it tougher - we need to have some tough fights to do the right thing.

Please feel free to add more.


Monday, February 2, 2009

How to 'sell' in a recession

Another ten point plan -- this one rather commerical, but really quite useful, all about selling in tough times.

Click here for the tips.

Thanks John at Sense Scotland.