Too Hot to Handle … How to Turn Warm Prospects into Donors

October 10, 2014 - by Bryan Evangelista


Do you have a large pool of advocates, old friends or subscribers that you are struggling to turn into donors?

Do you want to take full advantage of all the free names lurking on your database?

Do you ever wonder if there are hidden pockets of potential donors just waiting to make a gift?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then keep reading! Here are four simple tips that will help you identify the low-hanging fruit on your database and more successfully convert these “warm prospects” into donors and/or members:

1. Go Back to Your Old Friends

The definition of an "active" donor varies among different organizations, and is often based on when a person last gave. No matter when an "active" donor becomes "lapsed" according to your organization, that person should immediately become a prime candidate for reinstatement as part of an acquisition mailing.

Typically, organizations will select lapsed donors going back five or six years since the prospect's last gift. But why stop there? Lapsed donors often outperform outside prospects by a significant margin. If targeting six-year lapsed donors works, go back seven. If seven works, go back eight, nine, even ten years or more. These lapsed segments are free names and are likely to give again, and once reactivated, have a higher lifetime value.

2. Look at More Than Just Recency

Sure, lapsed names are great warm prospects, but there are other people who are likely to convert. Whether they are action takers, event donors, merchandise buyers, in-kind givers … anyone who already knows about your mission is a prime target for conversion. It’s a great test to mail them, email them, call them … do something, anything, to see how they perform. Free is free, so use them!

3. Explore Data Modeling Services

There are a variety of services available that can model names on your database to identify the best prospects. While the secret sauce of each modeling service varies, they all have the same goal in mind – convert more donors cost effectively! While this is an additional expense, the services aren’t all that expensive, and it might be worth a test to see if it works for you.

4. Do Your Own Modeling

If a modeling service isn’t your thing, get creative and do some of your own modeling. There are simple ways of modeling your own database to discover warm prospects who are more likely to give. One example is to look at geography. If a higher percentage of your active donors live in certain states, test mailing warm prospects only in those states. Another example is to look at demographics. If you know a certain age range, gender, or action is more prevalent among your active donors, target prospects based on those demographics.

No matter which segmentation strategies you ultimately choose, the most important thing is to take advantage of what your database has to offer and fully realize the potential of your warm prospects.

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