New Donor Acquisition: Finding Your Fans
In a recent blog post, I pointed out the importance of mailing to the right ZIP Codes. Indeed, that is a critical element for regional nonprofits whose service area and brand are limited geographically. Once we’ve established where to mail, we tackle the question of which lists contain your best prospects. There are tens of thousands of mailing lists available to rent. Choosing the right handful to include in your list plan is a tough job.
Start with what you know
If you have an existing donor acquisition program, you likely have access to reports that will tell you which lists have succeeded and which have failed over the last few years. This should be the first place you look to start choosing lists. Don’t just look at the successes of one or two campaigns, look at the winners from several campaigns. You’ll find that some lists perform very consistently campaign after campaign. Those lists should be part of every appeal so long as their results remain consistent. Some lists will do well in some campaigns and poorly in others. It’s likely that you’ll want to include them, but be careful how many names you take. Mitigate risk by managing the mail quantities of your marginal lists. Known, consistent performers are the most reliable, dependable lists. They should make up at least 75 to 80% of any new donor acquisition effort.
I’ll have what she’s having
When trying to find new lists to test, review list usage to look for lists that have been mailed successfully by organizations like yours or with a similar mission. If similar appeals have been successful with a list, it’s a solid test for you. Remember, while acquisition worked for other organizations, the appeal is still a test for you and your quantity in these “pre-driven” test lists should make up no more than 15 to 20% of your total mail volume.
Venture into the great unknown
At some point, you have to dive in and test completely unproven lists. How do you choose pure test lists? Look at the demographics of the list (age, gender, income) as well as other published attributes (compilation method, average gift or unit of sale) to find lists that look the most like your current donors. New donor acquisition is expensive. Manage your risk by only including one or two pure test lists per campaign (no more than 10% of your total mail volume).
Your fans are out there. Finding them is hard. Using sound methodology makes it easier.