It’s the Contacts Stupid – The Key to Boosting Donor Participation

For those struggling to boost donor participation rates, there is some parallel in Bill Clinton’s “it’s the economy stupid” campaign slogan. Sometimes it helps to find and focus on that proverbial “silver bullet” issue that can lead to success. For sure, in 1992, there were other peripheral issues on voters mind, but the one that trumped all others was the economy.

Let’s face it. If you are like most other institutions your donor participation rates have not nudged much in recent years. You have tried everything you could think of. The solicitation message has been fine-tuned, direct mail creatives redesigned, student callers trained, coached, re-trained, and new internet technology has been deployed. Yet progress has remained elusive.

It’s now time to reflect and see if there is that one silver bullet that you have missed. That one core missing piece that you have overlooked and that is holding back improvements. Fortunately there is one.

Consider this key fact. Typically, in a new donor acquisition campaign, despite repeated solicitation effort, across multiple channels, the vast majority of the constituents are never reached. On average, in most campaigns, 50 to 60 percent of the constituents are never reached. Even in donor renewal and reactivation campaigns, a sizable number of past donors are never reached.

Increasing contact rate is the key to improving participation. The more contacts the greater the opportunity to make a case for a donation and obtain a possible pledge.

The back-of-the-envelope arithmetic is actually quite compelling. Say your donor participation rate is 8 percent at a 45 percent contact rate. Then a 10 point improvement in contacts (from 45 to 55 percent) will increase your overall participation to 9.7 percent. That is huge! You need to pull two levers to improve contact rates.

First, you need to focus solicitation effort more on constituents that are likely to give. Trying to contact repeatedly constituents who feel no affinity towards the cause is a waste. It’s better to focus on those that have higher propensity to give.

Predictive analytics can play a valuable role in knowing up-front the constituents by their “propensity to give”. One can tailor the solicitation plan based on the likelihood of giving. As discussed in one of the earlier blogs in this series, analytics technology is getting cheaper and easy to use. All that you need is a few year’s historical campaign data, along with a few key constituent attributes, and some data derived and compiled from the internet.

Second, contacts can be increased by using multiple channels in a smart integrated way. Part of the reason contacts are often low is constituent’s channel preference are not taken into consideration. A direct mail to a millennial will most likely elicit a low response rate. A mobile message or a social post is a better way to reach this segment.

This is conventional wisdom and most marketers know it. Yet channel communication is executed sequentially in waves – first direct mail, then email, then telemarketing and so on. And, in silos, without responses from one channel being shared with other channels. You need to deploy a smart, flexible, integrated, offline and online, communication strategy. The next generation “omni channel” marketing automation tools can help you do it. But one caveat, most do not integrate offline and online communication which is critical.

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Insight brings the power of predictive analytics (sometimes called machine learning or data mining) to fundraising.

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Acquire is a multi-channel, integrated communication platform designed to increase contact rates.

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Cultivate improves donor retention with personalized communication that speaks to donor's interests & motivation for giving.

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