Outside The Box
A public policy research organization was staring down two deadlines: the usual end-of-year fundraising deadline and an opportunity to help Congress pass major legislation that represented years of their work. It would be their biggest-ever victory. The legislative landscape, however, was fluid. Lawmakers were still hammering out the bill, its details were changing daily, and there was always a chance it wouldn’t pass. How to keep donors up-to-date, let them know how the organization was putting their past gifts to good use, and make sure they did not miss the opportunity for year-end giving?
Davidson & Co. proposed an untested idea; one with no statistical evidence to prove it could work. Our intuition, honed by decades of experience, told us would work. The organizational leadership agreed to give it a try. The organization did not mail a traditional year-end appeal. Instead, Davidson & Co. worked with the organization’s president on six appeals, mailed once a week and penned in medias res, that brought donors up to speed and made a brief, firm ask for year-end support. Despite the increased cost, the series of letters netted 5.76 times the prior year’s year-end appeal (and 5.54 times the net of the year-end before that).
A Change of Perspective
It’s an axiom of fundraising that subscribers and donors are two completely different groups of people – and that the former isn’t interested in becoming the latter. But for one client, resting on this rule wasn’t enough. Over the decades, they’d built a large list of individuals who receive their publications, which tend to be cerebral and academic. Now, they needed a strategy to develop their base of philanthropic support – and the subscriber list was all they had.
Davidson & Co. advised approaching the effort as a prospecting program, rather than a housefile program. The organization was willing to tolerate a net loss for such a prospecting program, but that’s not what happened. The organization broke even in the first year, smashed the gross income goal for the year, and built an active donor file of over 2,700 names.
A client looking to grow its direct-mail program had one resource in its back pocket – but one that most fundraisers would declare all but useless. An earlier low-dollar mail program had yielded a large file of individuals who made small gifts, but the file hadn’t been touched in more than two years.
Shana designed a strategy to not only re-engage but upgrade donors on the file, effectively converting it from a low dollar to a high dollar file in less than three years. Thanks to a strategy of creative and consistent communications, the client now has a high dollar file which responds to appeals at a rate comparable to that of organizations with very mature high dollar direct mail-programs.
Starting From a Standing Stop
A new client had an exciting vision – but not much else. A brand-new startup, the client had only a few donors and even fewer prospects, but they wanted to grow quickly. To make the challenge more interesting, the organization had been launched to take on an issue that has notoriously confounded fundraisers.
Shana worked closely with the organization’s staff for four years, serving as an integral member of the team. From a standing stop, Shana built a file of more than 3,000 active house file donors that provided both a base of ongoing support and a rich source of major donor prospects.