New Donor Acquisition: Finding Your Fans

New Donor Acquisition
Date Published
Amy Houke

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.

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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