Questions to Ask Yourself When Results Fall Short

Results falling short
Date Published
Brett Jones

It happens. Despite all the thought, effort, and planning that go into a fundraising campaign, sometimes you don’t get the results you expected. Here are some things to ask yourself if it happens to you.

  1. Were the results short, or were expectations too high? We always want to generate more revenue campaign after campaign, and year after year. However, simply projecting higher results won’t get you there. Greater returns come with planning and testing, not from doing the exact same thing each time. There is risk in trying new things, but there is also reward!
  2. If your campaign was a multi-channel effort, was one channel down or was the shortfall across all channels? You need to know which channels were impacted to identify the root cause of the issue and to come up with a solution.
  3. Did you provide proper/clear instructions for how someone should respond, through the mail (including a reply envelope) and other channels? Make it as clear as possible how your supporters can make a gift to you.
  4. If it was a housefile mailing, did you mail the right audience? You probably think you know who you mailed, but it’s worth reviewing to make sure your intended segmentation was executed correctly. Over half the outcome of any campaign is determined by who you mail. And don’t be afraid to challenge your selection criteria after the fact, especially when results are down.
  5. When did you mail? If you’re mailing a time-sensitive appeal, when you mail is especially critical. You should double check the post office documentation to ensure it all mailed on time.
  6. What’s the bigger picture? If you had a record-breaking appeal the last time you mailed, it could be very difficult to repeat that success in the subsequent appeal. It’s also possible that external factors could have provided a lift to your comparative results – or hurt your most recent campaign.
  7. Did you mail a control package that has a history of generating strong results? Any changes to a control will impact the results.
  8. If the results were down in rented acquisition lists, was your list plan balanced? Most of names you mail to should be from tried and true control lists, with just a small portion of the names in new test lists.
  9. If response was down in your acquisition control lists, was the dip across the board? If so, this would point to something other than the lists.
  10. In your acquisition campaign, did just one or two individual lists decline? If so, consider changes that might be going on with those organizations and their lists. If they are not prospecting regularly and adding new names, the names on the file will become stale. You also want to make sure you received the selects (dollar and recency) that you ordered. Different segments from the same list will generate different results.

We hope it doesn’t happen to you, but if your campaign doesn’t perform as you’d hoped, use these questions to ensure that you learn what caused the shortfall and then use that information to guide future campaigns.

About the Authors:

Brett Jones, Vice President, Fundraising
Brett joined DMW Fundraising in June 2009 with 13 years of prior direct response agency experience. She manages membership and fundraising programs for a range of nonprofit organizations. In her prior roles, she worked on strategic planning, budgeting, client service, reporting/results analysis, telemarketing, data processing, and direct mail production.

Amy Houke, Media Director
Amy brings over two decades of direct marketing experience to the agency, specializing in acquisition mail. Amy’s focus has been on all aspects of new donor acquisition – from market area strategy and results analysis to audience identification and list media planning and execution.

Get the fundraising solutions you need to fuel your mission.

Get Started

Finally, an End-to-End Fundraising Solution Accessible to all Nonprofits

DMW Fundraising and Member Benefits are now part of Allegiance Fundraising Group

Allegiance Fundraising Group brings together three well-established fundraising teams to create an end-to-end fundraising solution that makes it easier for you to reach your mission. Today you can turn to a single team for seamless fundraising strategy and implementation, donor management software, and membership loyalty programs.

Learn more about Allegiance Fundraising