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JANN/Myth #1 My passion is Donor Service – so this first myth is often a point of confusion for those who know me. However, my responsibility is to raise funds while also caring for our donors. So the first myth I want to bust is:
Myth #1: Too much communication will drive donors away
<CLICK>This myth inspires fear. We hear in our hallways “Don’t ask too often.” “They just gave, don’t contact them!” and “Don’t contact our credit card/EFT sustainers, they will cancel!”
I’d like to pose a question to the group: In your direct mail cultivation plan, how many times a year do you ask your single gift donors to give? Raise your hand: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16+?
JANN (layered graphics)
It is a statistical fact: most next gifts come one to four months after the first gift - then giving drops when 6-11 months have passed. <click> You will see a small up-tick at 12 months – those are your annual givers. If your donor has not given a second gift by 13 months, the likelihood they will ever give again drops off significantly.
You’ve heard it, and if you have tested it, you’ve seen it play out year after year. You have a very short window of opportunity.
JANN The fact is: The more you connect with your donors, the more funds you raise. Lots of contact = more net revenue, better retention, more complaints*
Lets talk about complaints…yes, you will hear from your donors. And it is YOUR opportunity to build a relationship with them! Customize their preferences. Don’t arbitrarily remove them from all mailings! ASK them for their preferred contact cadence. How often would they like to hear about their gifts at work? When do they like to receive mail solicitations? Don’t assume.
AND training is KEY – don’t let this responsibility fall on an admin in your office. They will take the easy road and mark everyone DO NOT MAIL. Incentivize “saving” a donor and retaining them in the mail stream. Design your database so that you can offer options – not just ALL or NONE.
Less contact = less net revenue if you don’t ask, you don’t get worse retention – less opportunity to give and engage with the organization and better ROI due to reduced costs, but your overall performance metrics decline
JANN: (Layered graphics)
The truth? It’s not quantity, its quality. <click> It is about relevance to the donor. Do they swoon over your letters? …well, do they at least interrupt their busy day to read your mail?
People don’t complain if they receive the content they are looking for, that validates their decision to give and continues to engage their emotions with your organization. They don’t complain if you express your appreciation and show how their gifts are at work.
For Project HOPE we have had double digit increase in retention and improved avg gift value (up by $3 YOY) and LTV of donors over the past 18 months. At the same time we have increased # of touchpoints (driven by organization need for NET.) To do this successfully, we have focused on: donor centric communication <click> improving the value proposition of the HOPE offer through HOPE Promise <click> Have insured that our acknowledgements were relevant to the appeal the donor gave to <click> We launched a Donor Services call center – to move customer service away from the admin staff And <click> initiated a Voice of the Donor project to collect donor feedback and act on it.
JANN/Myth #4 Does this myth sound familiar? Educate your donors and they will give!
Myth #4 is often the point of tension between the communications department and the fundraising team. The Comms team is yelling “this is off brand” while the fundraising team is hollering back “statistics don’t sell.” And your programs team complains that you are over-simplifying the problem.
I picked this graphic, from 2013 because it educates you on the Syrian Refugee problem – however, as a fundraiser…”statistics don’t sell!”
JANN: (Layered graphics)
It is important to remember this FACT. The comms team and program staff are NOT your donors! Donors, not professionals, are your target audience.
The fact is: Donors don’t want to solve a problem because it is big. Poverty. Hunger. Access to Health Care. <Click> Donors want to solve a problem because it is solvable. They want to know that their small gift can make a big difference. Like: Give a vaccination to save a child’s life. Provide a meal to make a difference. Your donor’s want to know their gift matters.
JANN: (Layered graphics) Education does not sell. The Truth is, giving is emotional. Not rational. <click> As Donald Caine said in his book “Within Reason” “Emotion leads to action, reason leads to conclusion.”
Yes, education has its place within your broad overall communication plan, but it is not a function of fundraising.
For Project HOPE, after almost a decade of decline in our donor file, we have seen YOY file growth through the application of this truth. Tested out of an existing, long standing control package that did not connect the donor emotionally to the impact that their gift would make We have developed our HOPE offer proposition. “Your gift multiplied. Always.” to demonstrate the power of a donors gift, however small it may be Improved fundraising performance of our quarterly donor newsletters by focusing on the DONOR, not our organization.
<click> This can best be summed up by a recent piece of feedback from a donor, part of our “Voice of Our Donor” program – - Thank you for making this opportunity available by sending an email and an easy website for donation. I deeply appreciate your efforts toward Nepal as well as your outreach to folks like me, who feel so powerless to help. This gives me the chance to contribute in some way. - Your work is vital! . . . Donor gifts are positively leveraged almost beyond belief . . . Here's to saving more lives in Nepal . . .
JANN: Myth #7
I don’t know about you, but this Myth drives me nuts. At every board meeting, the board discusses a “young donor strategy” and asks how we are engaging younger “donors” on social media to raise more money.
I’m not sure what your donor file looks like, but mine is OLD. <click> Our average age is older than many files, as we have a segment of legacy donors who still remember when the SS HOPE sailed in the 1960’s. The HOPE retired in 1974!
I’m interested in acquiring younger donors – however, it is the “real” definition of “young.” I’m interested in acquiring more donors in their 60’s and 50’s. Donors who have money to give and not just support through likes and follows.
JANN: (layered graphics) Truth: For fundraisers, age 55 is young! <click> A simple fact – a typical donor file skews older (maybe not as old as the Project HOPE file, but certainly older.) <click> Donors over 50 have a higher retention rate that those under the age of 50. <click> And donor’s in the age bracket 55+ give significantly more than those under 55. <click> My job is to raise more funds for Project HOPE. I’m going where the money is!
For Project HOPE we are acquiring “younger” donors through channel diversification and moving away from a dependence on direct mail. In the past year, we launched long-form radio fundraising and are bringing on “younger” donors (age 50+) at a higher value first time gift in the ~$80-90 range.
JANN: Myth $10
We have heard it now for years. The pronouncement that direct mail is dead.
I remember being at a conference in 2007 and listening to a charity share that they were shifting significant budget away from mail and investing primarily in email. A couple of years pass and that online-only strategy was dead and the direct response program in disarray as they learned what many of us know from our For-Profit experience – you have to build a multi-channel program. - Diversification is key to your direct response plan.
JANN: So what is the truth? <click> The truth is, Direct Mail is the best way to drive online giving at Project HOPE. ASK: Is this the same for other org’s in the audience? <click> The simple fact is, you have to be where your donors are – and they are engaged both online and offline. You can’t do one without the other. DM recipients research online DM recipients give online It’s a fact: Your online and offline messaging must be consistent. When they go to your website or social media, do they see elements of your offline campaign? The data doesn’t lie: Donors who give both online and offline have higher long term value. Email recipients are reminded to give offline* You have to measure crossover activity. *CASE: DM remains the main driver of unrestricted revenue at HOPE. Project HOPE has a segmented email file of chronic non-responders…regular match back demonstrated that this was a group that were responding offline. Despite what appeared to be a large segment of inactive online donors. You must dig into the data before making assumptions about channel and response. We also do match back after every direct mail acquisition campaign – to be able to properly attribute new donors to what inspired their gift – the direct mail piece.
2015 FRDNY MythBusters: Direct Response Edition!
BONNIE CATENA, CONNECTOR-IN-CHIEF, CATENA CONNECTS
LARRY MAY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT, INFOGROUP
JANN SCHULTZ, SENIOR DIRECTOR INTEGRATED FUNDRAISING & COMMUNICATIONS, PROJE CT HOPE
LISA MASKA, PARTNER, LAUTMAN MASKA NEILL & COMPANY
Track Sponsored By:
Too much communication will drive people away!
Don’t ask again!
They just gave, “rest” them!
Don’t contact your sustainers,
they will cancel!!
Many next gifts come one to four months after the first gift.
Jann Schultz 3
The more you connect with your donors, the more funds
• More net revenue
• Better retention
• More complaints*
Lots of contact Much less contact
• Less net revenue
• Worse retention
• Better ROI
Jann Schultz 4
It’s not quantity,
Jann Schultz 5
You are your
Bonnie Catena 6
MYTH: Direct mail goes right to my
• FACT: According to Blackbaud’s 2014 Charitable Giving report, only 6.7% of
overall fundraising revenue was raised online.
• FACT: Direct mail still accounts for the majority of fundraising revenue
contributed by individual donors.
• FACT: Direct mail drives online giving—as much as 25% of an organization’s
new donor online income is contributed by people who receive direct mail
Bonnie Catena 7
Are entrenched in your
Has a life!
Meet her where it’s
most convenient for
her to meet you—and
direct mail is one of
Think of your
organization’s cause in
a business, not an
Thinks about your
organization in an
emotional way. She
gives because she is
moved to do so.
“I read the story of
that sick little girl and
just had to help.”
But even if you are
your target market,
you’re not, because…
Are entrenched in your
Think of your
organization’s cause in
a business, not an
We should communicate
with our donors the way
Listening to donors generally
Larry May 17
•“If we can figure out which donors give to which
campaigns, we can mail less and stop aggravating them
with so many appeals.”
•Nice idea, but it doesn’t work.
•Few donors follow any real giving patterns.
•Donors who give to a particular appeal are more likely to
respond to that appeal again, but most don’t.
•The donors most likely to respond are those who just
made a gift.
•Given the option, many donors will ask for fewer
•Fewer appeals = less income.
•Many donors will say “Just contact me once a year.”
•Then they won’t respond.
•Donors who ask for just one annual appeal will often
respond to that appeal at a higher rate than all other
•Maybe you’ll get 10% of donors who responded to that
package last year to give to it again, versus 5% for the
•But if you don’t keep sending them mail, that’s it – you
got 10% to respond.
•Your goal for overall retention should be 60%.
•You have turned many of your best donors into lapsed
donors who will be much more difficult to reactivate.
•What people say they want and what works for
fundraising are usually opposites.
•Focus groups are usually wrong.
•People lie on surveys.
•Donors hate telemarketing, but it works.
•Everyone hates telemarketing.
•Even telemarketers hate telemarketing.
•But it works.
Educate your donors and they will give.
Donors don’t want to solve a problem because it is big.
They want to solve a problem because it is solvable.
Giving is emotional
“Thank you for making this
opportunity available by
sending an email and an easy
website for donation. I deeply
appreciate your efforts toward
Nepal as well as your outreach
to folks like me, who feel so
powerless to help. This gives me
the chance to contribute in
some way.” –Donor, 4-26-15
MYTH: You can’t say that —
• FACT: Marketing is about your organization.
• FACT: Fundraising is about your donor.
• FACT: Your donor is the super-hero. Your
organization is the side-kick.
puts the donor
Your donor wants to
help a person in need
or advance a cause
“Think a little.
Feel a lot.”
We know what our
Your opinions have little
value in fundraising.
•“We all loved this package, but it bombed.”
•“I know lots of successful organizations mail those
types of packages, but they won’t work with our
•“I talk to our donors all the time, and they hate
that direct mail stuff.”
•We are not our donors.
•The fact that we are all here at a fundraising convention in
Manhattan should be evidence enough.
•Most of us here today probably identify as “liberal.”
•But fewer than 20% of Americans do.
•“Liberal” causes like environmentalism and fighting
poverty are also supported by “conservatives” and
•Have the imagination to know not everyone is like you.
•People who call to complain are not typical donors.
•They are weirdos with too much time on their hands.
•The small number of comments and complaints you hear
don’t represent the majority.
•Only testing really tells what donors respond to.
•My colleague Graham Hunter: “Don’t turn your
complainers into your focus group.”
•The late, great Don Kuhn: “Lots of complaints right after
you mail means you’ll have a great response.”
We need younger donors!
Project HOPE is focused on acquiring more donors in their
50’s and 60’s.
For fundraisers, age 55 is young!
Long letters don’t
(Neither do long
MYTH: This letter is way too long.
No one will read it.
• FACT: Testing — decades’ worth! — shows that longer letters
• FACT: Psychology is at play.
• FACT: There are exceptions, so you should test!
Tell your story first.
A long letter lends
an air of credibility
and authenticity to
This maxim is
carrying over to
Our program is unique.
Within categories, most
programs are very much
•Categories such as health, children, international,
environmental have predictable, similar patterns.
•Unless you are doing things really wrong, the basic
dynamics don’t change much.
•BUT – small changes for the better have huge long-term
Within organization category:
• Approximately same average gift
• Approximately same maximum donor base size
• Approximately same number of gifts per donor, per year
Virtually all good programs have…
•55-65% retention of current donors
•30-35% first year conversion of new donors
•50% or greater ultimate conversion of new donors
•15-20% of new donors still active in 5 years
•Increase first-year new donor conversion a few
•Increase year-to-year retention a little…
•Increase the average gift a few dollars…
•And you have a very big long-term impact.
Direct Mail is dying!
Direct Mail is the best way to drive online giving.
If I use a P.S., it looks like I forgot something.
MYTH: Underlining, bold type and bullet points are
gimmicks and donors know it. Take it all out.
• FACT: There’s a method to the madness of the anatomy
of a direct mail letter.
• FACT: Ditto for the envelope, reply device, inserts….
• FACT: Yes. It’s counter-intuitive. That makes it fun!
Donors don't read the
whole letter. They read
the lead and the P.S. and
skim the rest.
Accordingly, the best
fundraising letters are
structured as a map of
the story you are
We call out the most
salient points with short
underlining and the P.S.
Make it look personal
Repeat the offer
Reinforce the story and the offer
Our lapsed donors
have lost interest in
Lapsed donors still care
and you need to make
more effort with them.
• Stop comparing your lapsed donors to your best
• Start comparing lapsed donors to prospects.
• Most organizations don’t invest nearly enough in
• Good Goal: reactivate as many lapses as you gain new
• Almost half of the new donors you acquire never
make a second contribution.
• Those who do are more valuable than a group of new
donors, even if they have lapsed.
• Donors don’t keep track of how often they give to you.
• Every lapsed donor who renews is at minimum a two-
• Renewed lapsed donors often have 50% greater LTV
than new names.
• Use basic RFM segmentation on your 24- to 60-month
• As you lose recency in older names, increase the
frequency and monetary (gift amount).
• Match the names that don’t make your RFM cut,
and all older names, to one or more co-op
databases to find recency.
• Applying co-op recency activity can let you identify
good prospects even among very long lapsed
• Match your long lapses, even 10+ years, to a donor
co-op and find those still active.
Lisa Maska, Lautman Maska Neill & Company
202-296-9660 ext 206