T
imes are tough, even for altruis-
tic causes. Although Americans
gave $212 billion to charitable
causes in 2001, accordi...
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Targeted campaigns bring in repeat donations

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Although Americans gave $212 billion to charitable causes in 2001, according to the American Association of Fundraising Council (AAFRC), it is actually a 2.3% decrease from the previous year (when adjusted for inflation). Nonprofit organizations must therefore become more sophisticated and strategic with their fundraising. One proven solution: direct mail campaigns targeted to major and planned gift donors.

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Targeted campaigns bring in repeat donations

  1. 1. T imes are tough, even for altruis- tic causes. Although Americans gave $212 billion to charitable causes in 2001, according to the American Association of Fundraising Council (AAFRC), it is actually a 2.3% decrease from the previous year (when adjusted for inflation). Nonprofit organizations must therefore become more sophisticated and strategic with their fundraising. One proven solution: direct mail campaigns targeted to major and planned gift donors. Consistent communication According to Hank Zachry, president of Caswell, Zachry, Grizzard—a Dallas planned-giving consulting firm repre- senting many leading U.S. nonprofit organizations—a successful direct mail and branding effort is based on consis- tent communication. “Successful direct mail campaigns are those that are continually mailed to people who have demonstrated a commitment to an organization over a long period of time,” Zachry says. Continuous, consistent direct mail efforts ingrain an organization’s message into the minds of potential donors and build a foundation for their future philanthropy. However, “most organizations lose money by changing every piece,” com- ments Christine Hershey, founder of Santa Monica, California-based Cause Communications, a consulting firm that helps nonprofits succeed by using the same marketing tools Fortune 500 companies use to build market share. “Organizations need a well-planned campaign with consistent messaging, a repeated call to action and related visuals to build brand equity and improve effectiveness.” Hershey further warns, “The biggest mistake nonprofits make is to have direct mail efforts only when funds are available, without regard to strategy. As a result, the recipient doesn’t have a chance to get familiar with the organi- zation, their cause and their issues. Organizations really need to commit to frequency and volume.” Prime prospects A successful direct mail campaign begins with prequalified prospects. For planned and major efforts, Zachry encourages organizations to pursue supporters of at least five years. “A donor acquired over the last two or three years is probably less commit- ted,” Zachry notes. An ideal planned or major gift donor is in their mid-80s and is someone who can fund a gift with appreciated assets (preferably stocks that have yielded significant returns, despite market fluctuations). Organizations should focus their direct mail efforts on donors with a demonstrated and significant financial commitment to the cause. Donors who give small amounts on a less frequent basis typically abstain from giving dur- ing difficult economic times. However, major and planned givers are different. “They are the people that continue to give, regardless of the circumstances,” Zachry adds. Competitive considerations The average charitably minded person gives to 12 related organiza- tions a year. “The closer the emotional bond to the organization, the more likely the size and frequency of giving will increase,” Zachry says. As a result, disease-oriented and religious organizations tend to have more dedicated and consistent donors. Conversely, due to the event-oriented nature of their mission, groups like the Red Cross and Salvation Army tend to have a less consistent donor base, which means their direct mail efforts need to be more focused, targeted and effective. “Nonprofits with a consistent, brand- ed look and message that reach donors on a regular basis have the best chance of defining themselves, proving their relevance and being remembered,” Hershey adds. Real results In December 2002, a national charity for which Zachry’s firm provides serv- ices notified donors about an impend- ing January 2003 charitable gift annuity rate reduction (approximately 0.5% across the board). “We’ve raised $80,000,” Zachry says, “And the rates aren’t going down that much. But, look at CDs. Eighteen months ago, CDs were paying 6%, now they’re paying a point and a half.” Another client of Zachry’s initiated its first planned-giving direct mail cam- paign in the fall of 2001 and six months later had created 15 new gift annuities, grossed nearly half a million dollars and increased the visibility of the organization to 40,000 people. Future focus Direct mail is a major source of gifts and a key way to identify major and planned donors. If crafted cre- atively, targeted correctly and followed up quickly, direct mail is a powerful tool for any nonprofit organization looking for a safe harbor in these turbulent times. ■ FEB. 17, 2003 / A PUBLICATION OF THE AMERICAN MARKETING ASSOCIATION WWW.MARKETINGPOWER.COM Targeted campaigns bring in repeat donations “The biggest mistake nonprofits make is to have direct mail efforts only when funds are available, without regards to strategy.” BY MATTHEW A. GILBERT

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