Is Your Suppress File Limiting Your Results?

Suppress Current Donors
Date Published

We all know how important it is to suppress your current donors, lapsed members who will be getting your mailing, and anyone on your “do-not-contact” list when you’re planning to purchase names for an acquisition appeal. It’s never fun when you receive a complaint from a current donor who has received a new donor acquisition appeal in the mail. It’s insulting to the donor and embarrassing for you.

But there does come a point when you need to weigh the prospect of erroneously mailing to active donors against the probability that those receiving the appeal are going to respond. This is particularly true for lapsed members who have not renewed in several years. For them, a better strategy might be to “release” them from your suppression file and throw them back into the pool of available names for acquisition. And here’s why:

By suppressing all past donors, you could be missing out on some hidden gems.

Allegiance Fundraising works with a nonprofit that recently received two significant gifts from deep lapsed members—but it wasn’t through a lapsed recapture effort. The $1,000 and $500 gifts came via the acquisition channel. These were less recent lapsed donors who the organization chose not to suppress from the acquisition mailing. The fact that they took the time to consider their suppression strategy resulted in the recapture of two valuable members—and neither of them had been major (or even mid-level) donors in the past. It’s a telling story.

You might think it makes sense to suppress all the lapsed records you already have on file, with the thought that “I own the name, I don’t want to BUY it.” Yes, it’s true that you own the name already, but if you aren’t mailing a lapsed donor it doesn’t do anything for you. And, by making them available for an acquisition buy you are, in essence, qualifying those deeply lapsed people by only mailing to them if they are an active, current donor or buyer to another organization.

This does mean you are buying names that you technically already have, but continuing to suppress them forces your list broker to order more names, delving into softer/weaker lists in order to get to the mail quantity you want.

So, when you are planning your next direct mail acquisition appeal, take extra care in creating your suppression file. Review the criteria you’re using and consider including only lapsed donors who are being mailed to and current donors. Who knows, you might just see a $1,000 gift show up in one of your acquisition reply envelopes too! Or, at the very least you might end up enticing some lapsed donors back who wouldn’t have otherwise been targeted.

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