Questions to Ask Yourself When Results Fall Short

Results falling short
Date Published
Brett Jones, Amy Houke

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 Author:
Brett Jones
Vice President of Client Management, Agency Services

Role at the Company

I lead the Agency Services Client Management team. I challenge the team to continually improve our strategy, creative and service, and develop new ideas, so we can provide better solutions and outcomes to our clients.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love fundraising! In my career I have had the chance to work with many different organizations that are doing incredible work and really making a difference. I enjoy helping them meet and exceed their goals so they can advance their missions. 

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

I have always wanted to work with non-profits and love fundraising. It’s my way of contributing to the greater good. I can’t imagine what else I would do!

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I love reading, ice skating, and going to the beach in the summer, but most of I love spending time with my daughter.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Brett is my middle name. I’m actually Sara Brett. But don’t call me Sara if you want me to answer!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

I remember the first time I rode a bike without training wheels. I was so proud of myself. I was so excited to visit my neighborhood friends by myself.

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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