Focus on Regional Nonprofits: New Donor Acquisition – How Much Is Too Much?

Date Published
Amy Houke

In a recent blog post, I pointed out how important who you mail is. Your results can also be impacted by how many you mail. While there are specific analytical tools that can direct your acquisition mail quantity, there are also some basic litmus tests that can give you a general idea of whether you’re over- or under-mailing.

How mature is your program?

As you mail successfully over time and acquire (and retain) more donors, naturally, the pool of available new donors in your service area will shrink if you are a regional organization. How much of your prospect universe have you already conquered? Looking at your donor count as a percentage of the total households in your mail area will give you some indication. If your active and recently lapsed donor base makes up 3% or more of the households in your area, you are going to have more difficulty maintaining the mail quantities you may have mailed at the outset of your direct mail donor acquisition program.

Sometimes the answer is in the merge

One step common to virtually all donor acquisition programs is a merge purge. A merge purge is done to make sure that your current donors and constituents are not receiving acquisition mail from you as well as to ensure that you’re not wasting money mailing duplicates that occur among rented lists. If your name retention rate post-merge is lower than 50%, you know that you’re probably mailing about all that you can comfortably get in your area.

Follow the results

Ultimately, how many you mail can be determined by your cost to acquire. If your cost to acquire a new donor is still at a level acceptable to you, then (regardless of your net percentage or current donor penetration), you should mail until it’s not.

A word of advice about your suppression file

Your name retention rate is impacted largely by the number of records you are suppressing. And your results will be negatively impacted by suppressing the wrong people. Be sure to only suppress individuals who are active donors or who you are still actively trying to recapture through the mail. Once you’ve given up on reacquiring them, do not suppress them from receiving new acquisition offers. If they appear on donor lists that you’re renting, they’re giving to other organizations. Don’t prevent them from opportunities to give to you, too!

Mailing the right quantity in your donor acquisition efforts is critical to growing your file as well as to budgeting. Apply some common sense to determine if you are overmailing, undermailing, or mailing just right based on your organization’s current situation and objectives.

About the Author:
Amy Houke
Media Director, Agency Services

Role at the Company

I am responsible for providing media research and recommendations to AFG clients. I work closely with other AFG team members to assure that prospect list and print recommendations are consistent with the overall strategic and creative direction of each program.

My experience has included media planning for many types of non-profit clients, including public broadcasting stations, animal welfare organizations and food banks.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

Successful fundraising is about getting your organization’s mission into the hearts of your current and prospective donors. My job is to identify your future donors. That comes from a deep understanding of who your current donors are and what they look like. That’s exciting!

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I enjoy serving in small group leadership and doing local mission work with my church.

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