The rise of the “uncooperative” donor

One of the most significant and vexing changes that’s rippling through our industry is the way donors respond to our fundraising.

They just aren’t cooperating! Used to be if we sent them mail, they responded in the mail. Increasingly, they cross our neat little boundaries, responding in ways of their choosing — which can really screw up our attempts to measure fundraising.

That’s the important point raised by my former colleague Bill Jacobs wrote recently at the Grizzard Blog: Moving Beyond Sola Directa Maila.

Direct mail is still motivating gifts — lots of research to support this — but less and less of those gifts are coming through the direct mail. Yet we are still evaluating direct mail performance by gifts coming through the direct mail. And that is no longer useful.

Most organizations are experience a real jump in white mail (gifts coming in that aren’t obviously attributed to any source)

This is probably part of the reason for the industry-wide drop in response rates. A lot of the responses we’re losing are just moving to other places, and we haven’t figured out how to measure them.

So as more donors respond to direct mail they’ve received by online bill-pay or through the “wrong” medium, our measurement of our fundraising efforts is getting more out of whack with reality.

We need to figure out new ways to measure these responses. Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of bad decisions about our fundraising.


Comments

2 responses to “The rise of the “uncooperative” donor”

  1. There actually is a way to measure these responses:
    1. Randomly segment your list into three parts: one gets a direct mail appeal and an email appeal, one only gets a direct mail appeal and no email appeal, and one gets only an email appeal and no direct mail appeal.
    2. Send the appeals at the same time and with as similar content as possible (so that you’re measuring the channel response, not the content response).
    3. A couple weeks later, look at returns from all three segments and across channels.
    This is the only way to accurately measure multi-channel responsiveness. To my knowledge, despite all of the hype and talk about multi-channel fundraising, nobody’s ever run an experiment like this. If you know of anybody who has (or wants to!), please let me know – michaelrkn[at]gmail[dot]com.

  2. There actually is a way to measure these responses:
    1. Randomly segment your list into three parts: one gets a direct mail appeal and an email appeal, one only gets a direct mail appeal and no email appeal, and one gets only an email appeal and no direct mail appeal.
    2. Send the appeals at the same time and with as similar content as possible (so that you’re measuring the channel response, not the content response).
    3. A couple weeks later, look at returns from all three segments and across channels.
    This is the only way to accurately measure multi-channel responsiveness. To my knowledge, despite all of the hype and talk about multi-channel fundraising, nobody’s ever run an experiment like this. If you know of anybody who has (or wants to!), please let me know – michaelrkn[at]gmail[dot]com.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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