Why Over Suppressing in Acquisition is Bad for Your Organization

Date Published
Bill Blinstrub

If you are having trouble hitting new donor prospect goals with your list buys or if response rates have stagnated, the first thing to do is check your suppression file criteria.

Suppression file criteria aren’t sexy or cutting edge. But proper use of these criteria is an essential tool and building block of a healthy new donor acquisition program.

All acquisition programs should  be suppressing two key segments of donors:

  1. Active donors – These are your organization’s current donors, who have donated in the past 18 months (or so, depending your organization definition) and who will be communicated with as part of a renewal program or additional gift program.
  2. Lapsed donors who you plan to communicate with in an attempt to recapture –These are typically 18-month to 36-month lapsed donors, again depending on your organization’s lapsed recapture program specifics. These are people who you plan to communicate with again soon.

(Note: Your internal Do Not Mail  lists should also be suppressed, but they may or may not be donors, they could also include your board, major donors, those who fall into another track.)

If you have a large portion of your lapsed file that you are not planning to try and recapture via the mail, then they should NOT be suppressed from acquisition mailings.

Wait… What? Why?

Because after a certain amount of time, people forget they gave to you.

No one likes to be forgotten, but the fact is donors who gave to you 20 years ago are not warm leads anymore. They should be placed back in the acquisition funnel and treated as new prospects. Also, the fact that these long-lapsed donors are actively giving to other organizations is a good indicator that they may respond favorably to your appeal.

Getting your suppression file criteria updated to avoid over suppressing will increase the available universe for your acquisition mail. We recently went through this process with a client with a mature acquisition program, that was having trouble hitting its target mail quantity in acquisition. We took a close look at the client’s suppression file and found that the donor acquisition program was suppressing people who had given 20-25 years ago! There was no contact with these folks via a lapsed recapture program, and they were also being suppressed from acquisition, so all of these past donors were not receiving any solicitations. We tightened up the suppression criteria and found the client was able to hit their goal quantity in acquisition for the first time in a long while.  More acquisition mail means more new donors and creates a healthy pipeline for your organization’s future.

Concerned that your organization may be over suppressing in acquisition? Contact us, we can help!

About the Author:
Bill Blinstrub
Senior Account Executive, Agency Services

Years in the industry

6 in Fundraising, 20+ in direct mail and marketing

Role at the Company

I develop and execute client strategy, as well as provide results analysis and budget management. I am the key face-to-face client contact, advising on all fundraising activities, best practices, trends, whatever my clients need! If my client needs something, I make it happen!

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love the people, and the culture. AFG really creates a positive, proactive environment that empowers me to fully immerse myself in serving my clients. No idea is off limits, new thinking is encouraged, and everyone works together to meet one common goal.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I am an avid- but not fast- runner. I enjoy competing in road races whenever possible. Its a great way to experience a new city/place, and I love running “unplugged”, no headphones. I love to hear the sounds of nature around me. Running really allows me to connect with a place and its people.

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