The donor hasn’t given in 9 years — should you keep trying?

I want to show you a smart piece of fundraising I got in the mail recently from Feeding America.

First the envelope:

FA OEfront

This is a smart envelope. I don’t know what DONOR CONFIRMATION ENCLOSED means, and that’s its power. (Also, the organization that sent it is not identified in any way — there’s only a PO Box address on the back flap.

Because it incites curiosity, it likely gets a good open rate. (Wouldn’t it be cool if we could measure the open rate of direct mail the way we can for email?

But here’s where it gets interesting:

FA RDfront

This, along with a return envelope, is the entire contents of the pack.

As you can see in the box on the lower panel, I am a deeply lapsed donor to this organization — nearly nine years. The amount of my last gift (which I’ve crossed out to protect my meagre privacy) was enough to put me in a mid-value donor category.

For reasons of my own, I stopped giving to this organization. They have no idea why, and really no way to find out, short of asking me directly. But they want me (and my mid-value potential) back!

For most donors, it would be crazy to keep mailing someone as deeply lapsed as I am. The response rate will be abysmal — probably lower than 0.2%. A crazy waste of money.

But if the donor’s last gift is high enough, all the math changes. Because the small number of those donors who do reactivate at a very high average gift. And be more likely than average to upgrade. Suddenly that terrible response rate doesn’t look so bad!

Two more things I want to point out about this pack:

  1. It has a good offer — a match that will “TRIPLE your impact”. Smart move, as a match dependably works better than the same pack without a match.
  2. The pack is dirt cheap. That’s not always a smart tactic, but in this case it might be — over-spending on an audience as cold as I am can quickly undermine the feasibility of the project.

Winning back a deeply lapsed mid-value donor is worth a little extra work!

(This post first appeared on February 8, 2018.)


Comments

10 responses to “The donor hasn’t given in 9 years — should you keep trying?”

  1. So did you donate in response to this request?

  2. So did you donate in response to this request?

  3. Julia Cameron Avatar
    Julia Cameron

    We implemented this type of appeal when I first read this article back in 2018. We’ve run it every year since then, going back to people who haven’t given for 5+ years, who were ‘higher’ value (gave $100+). We consistently receive a 1% response rate and an average gift of $100 – $120. It’s an extremely low cost pack, and it consistently works for us.
    For context, we’re an Australian charity, and our acquisition packs bring in a 4 – 5% response rate, while our warm packs will be around 8 – 15%.

  4. Julia Cameron Avatar
    Julia Cameron

    We implemented this type of appeal when I first read this article back in 2018. We’ve run it every year since then, going back to people who haven’t given for 5+ years, who were ‘higher’ value (gave $100+). We consistently receive a 1% response rate and an average gift of $100 – $120. It’s an extremely low cost pack, and it consistently works for us.
    For context, we’re an Australian charity, and our acquisition packs bring in a 4 – 5% response rate, while our warm packs will be around 8 – 15%.

  5. Nope! I scanned it and wrote about it. Probably atypical donor behavior.

  6. Nope! I scanned it and wrote about it. Probably atypical donor behavior.

  7. I never would have opened it. Looks like junk mail to me.

  8. I never would have opened it. Looks like junk mail to me.

  9. Keith K Avatar

    What I find UNappealing is the math regarding the number of meals that my $50, 75 or $100 will buy. Well, to be precise, they do say that my $50 will actually only “HELP secure and….” I believe the psychology is to make the reader think that her $50 will provide 1,650 meals. However, when I do the math, I feel like the organization thinks I am really gullible to believe that 3 cents will provide a meal. And then I read the fine print and think “oh….my $50 is supplemented by who knows how many other gifts of $50 to actually “secure and distribute 1,650 meals.” Probably not your typical donor behavior either but….just sayin’.

  10. Keith K Avatar

    What I find UNappealing is the math regarding the number of meals that my $50, 75 or $100 will buy. Well, to be precise, they do say that my $50 will actually only “HELP secure and….” I believe the psychology is to make the reader think that her $50 will provide 1,650 meals. However, when I do the math, I feel like the organization thinks I am really gullible to believe that 3 cents will provide a meal. And then I read the fine print and think “oh….my $50 is supplemented by who knows how many other gifts of $50 to actually “secure and distribute 1,650 meals.” Probably not your typical donor behavior either but….just sayin’.

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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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