Funds for All & All for Funds

Welcome to my blog! I'd like you to consider this an interactive space for sharing information, successes, ideas, strategies, and links to help us all raise more funds for nonprofits.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Direct mail and the new economy

Fundraising mailers are finding acquisition of new donors a tough go in the new economic climate. But if an organization doesn't continually replace lapsed donors with new ones, its constituency shrinks and the donations ultimately dry up.

What to do?

One approach might be to take a lesson from the wild success of the Obama campaign's direct mail strategy. This article covers three basic points that have to do with the synergy of traditional postal mail and online approaches. The campaign shattered fundraising records with small donations raised through a combination of technologies.

Focusing on new donors who are willing to make small donations is a winning strategy in a down economy. Once on board, new donors will receive (if you are wise in your mailing program) more information about your organization that will increase their sense of loyalty and encourage them to increase their donations as the economy eases up. Getting a first-time donor at a net loss is a rule of thumb these days. Don't be afraid to spend the money. A new donor is a prospective planned gift donor, a lifetime donor, and possibly a major donor. Even a donation of $5 should be treated with respect in these times.


  1. While it doesn't create new prospects, RFM analysis can help you identify historically good donors who have begun to lapse, as well as past donors who are not likely to give again (thereby saving the expense of appealing to them). RFM is normally used in marketing but I see no reason why it wouldn't work in fundraising as well, to reduce expenses and optimize the database of existing donors. Here's an article on RFM:

    Latency (the average time between donations by an individual) can also be tracked and used as a way of avoiding needless spending on someone who probably just isn't ready yet to donate again.

    I know from my experience in higher education marketing that RFM really works.

  2. Steve, Thanks so much for the article and the idea. One of the great difficulties I have as a consultant is persuading my clients to review results of a mailing or a season of mailings by looking at the numbers in several different ways, over different time periods -- taking the long view instead of the short-term one. RFM analysis sounds like a very useful tool to put into my tool kit.

  3. My experience is that there's much more interest in the brochure--its design, colors, graphics, etc.--than in the database, which, when analyzed properly, is the best predictor of how successful the brochure's appeal will be. A former colleague had a motto on her office door: "No data-free decisions." I've adopted it.

  4. Yes, everyone's an amateur graphic designer (and writer), but no one wants to look at a spreadsheet. I love the motto -- will borrow it!! The database is everything, right up to the point of personal contact, when that becomes the new everything in fundraising. But you have to wade through a lot of statistical analysis to find the people with whom it's worth making personal contact for cultivation toward the big gifts.

  5. This is a great idea, Rachel. I'll be a dsily visitor. Steve, I smiled when I read your "motto". When I was working, we had a big sign on the wall that read: "Don't get caught with your data down"!


  6. Pat,

    Please do visit and feel free to contribute ideas and experience! I love your motto too.