Case Studies Show How Nonprofits Can Improve Donor Mail Results

As AccuList’s nonprofit fundraising clients enter their busiest direct mail season, the team thought it might be worthwhile to pass along three case studies from the CharityHowTo blog, showing some basic ways to pump direct mail performance.

The Case for Donor List Segmentation

Donor list segmentation is essential, and delivers dividends even for those starting from scratch. For example, the blog post cites the case of a new executive director at a human services organization that lacked results of historical appeals in terms of targeting and pieces sent. The executive director decided to develop a recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) segmentation and so exported the donor base and began to divide it into sections by last gift date, amount of donation (high to low) and most recent to older. In this case, the executive director broke out donors who had given a gift of $250 or more at some point; these “best” donors were going to receive the same appeal as the others, but the new executive director was also going to include a handwritten personal note with each letter and send the appeal by first-class mail. All other donors were broken out by recency, treating the 0-24 months donors as  “active” donors, and then further segmenting for those giving below $100 and those giving $100-$249.99. There was a separate segment of “lapsed” donors defined as donors who hadn’t given in the last 3 to 5 years, and even a deep lapsed segment who hadn’t given in 5 years or more. Then all segments, coded for results tracking, were mailed a personalized letter and personalized reply form. Even though just starting out, results improved in terms of total donations and efficiency, with an overall cost of just $0.04 for every dollar raised (compared with an industry average cost of $0.20 cited by the blog). Plus, the nonprofit now had proven segmentation results for use in further improvement of efficiency and targeted messaging.

The Case for Increased Mail Frequency

If you don’t ask, you won’t get, but nonprofits worried about costs and donor fatigue often err on the conservative side when deciding how frequently donors should be mailed. The blog cites the case of a homeless shelters executive director who was initially against mailing more than twice a year, even though they had some 65+ homeless people that they were supporting each day. Because they needed to raise more money, they finally tried adding two more appeals per year. Of course, the added appeals increased costs, but they also increased net revenue by 32%. The cost to raise a dollar with two appeals was $0.12, and with 4 appeals went up to $0.20, yet the overall net dollars after costs rose from $51,227 to $67,590.

The Case for Tapping Recent Donors

Research shows that donors who gave most recently are also most likely to give again. For doubters, try testing a segment of recent donors (0-3 months or 0-6 months). And of course, you will want to segment out those recent donors who give the largest amounts and offer special treatment, such as an appeal with a personal note of thanks for their gift and an indication that you’re just sending the latest appeal for their information only (even though of course you’re going to include a reply envelope). However, the case study of an environmental organization shows why hesitancy to mail a donor too soon is often misguided. The organization typically mails about 5 times a year; once someone reaches the $1,000 level, they go into a personal note stream. Results show that while the 7-month-to-one-year donors deliver the most net revenue and average gift, the next best performing segment is the recent 0-to-3-month donors in terms of net revenue and average gift!

 See the complete article for useful charts and details.

Emerging Technologies Create New Breed of Interactive Mail

To help boost direct mailer use of emerging technologies, the U.S. Postal Service offered postage discounts this summer for use of interactive mail tools such as QR codes, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Near Field Communications (NFC), and Video in Print. But taking a new technology from gimmick to ROI booster requires inspiration even more than discounts. So here are some success stories courtesy of the USPS, too.

Use QR & AR to Link Print to Digital Experiences

Among the USPS-cited case studies of use of mobile- or tablet-scanned QR and AR codes is this example of how QR codes proved their value for organized sports marketing. Sports event managers created more than 50 unique codes for signage, publications and e-tickets to provide information, social media sharing, and mobile store access, and succeeded in getting QR-code users to scan event material an average of 1.6 times and increased downloads of the official app to 15 million. Meanwhile, AR proved its traffic-building value for a furniture retailer’s mailed yearly catalog; recipients used the app to superimpose pieces of furniture onto a real-time 360°/180° view of their homes, resulting in both more app and website visits by customers for the retailer. The information gathered by apps can achieve other retail marketing goals besides traffic and sales, of course. The USPS cites a beauty company’s print ad AR app that allowed digital trials of nail polish, with the goals of preventing product returns and improving future stocking decisions and color choices. Over 10% of users scanned the ad with their smartphones or tablets to try on 40 different nail polish colors.

Use NFC, Video and Mobile in Print for Immediate Interaction

Near Field Communications (NFC) relies on chips and radio waves to communicate with smartphones rather than scannable codes and has the advantage of instant access without app download. The USPS notes a movie premiere’s NFC-enabled posters that encouraged users to tap an image with their smartphones to access behind-the-scenes footage, and an Uber campaign in England with NFC-enabled coasters in pubs, right on the table with the smartphones–and the drinks inspiring ride requests. Video-in-Print (VIP) uses a video device included in a mailer or print ad and can work well for targeting high-value customers. For example, an auto company promoting a new truck used publisher data to select 20,000 readers who fit the target truck owner profile and sent them a VIP magazine insert. Mobile-in-Print also creates immediate interaction by placing mobile call or text capabilities in print media. Consider the case of a multinational auto insurance company plagued by complaints about help line delays: The insurer sent out mobile-in-print mailers that prompted customers to use the keypad embedded on the page to enter their mobile telephone number and license plate information to receive instant insurance quotes on their mobile devices. For more examples of innovative direct mail ideas courtesy of the USPS, see
https://www.uspsdelivers.com/16-case-studies-to-inspire-your-next-direct-mail-campaign/