A Very Special Acknowledgement… For A Thank You Note!
Acknowledging donor contributions quickly and personally can and will raise more money for your organization. If you work with us, you know this because we say it all the time — prompt and personal acknowledgments improve long-term donor retention.
But, in case you don’t believe us, here’s a true story that demonstrates the importance of this principle of fundraising.
Ronald McDonald House of Durham sends out thank you letters every day. Volunteers who come for other reasons (to prepare meals, sit with families, etc.) are often asked to write quick, handwritten notes on a few of these letters before they leave. These brief notes often just say, “Your gift is really helping a family we serve,” and don’t take away from the volunteers’ other responsibilities.
The impact of these brief notes is great.
Recently, one donor who received an acknowledgment for his modest contribution with a handwritten note on it actually wrote back to Ronald McDonald House. His letter begins:
“I wanted to thank you for the note I received from you following my small donation…”
We’ve seen a lot of things in our years of direct mail service, but this is one of the first thank you notes we’ve seen a donor write in response to getting a thank you note! But, as his letter goes on, we understand why he felt the need to write:
“I am not a person of great money, but I have started donating a little something to a few charities over the past few years. This year, I made about four gifts. Your organization is the only one to thank me after the fact — not that I require it, but it was appreciated.”
Three of the four groups this donor gave money to didn’t even take the time to say “Thank you”! We can assume that he will be one of the almost 70% of new donors who don’t renew each year to these groups. But then, here’s where his letter to Ronald McDonald House gets better…
“Because of your appreciation and attention to detail, I am including another small contribution… I hope this gift helps another family along the way with their struggle… You can count on my small contribution each year from now on!”
So, with one thank you letter with a personalized note, the Ronald McDonald House of Durham turned a first-time donor, into a renewed donor, into a multi donor! As donors become more selective about where they make their gifts and how generous they are, it is critical that acknowledgements be prompt, personal and meaningful.
Back to Top >>
Little Tests With Big Results
Anyone who works in the direct marketing industry knows… little things can have a big impact on results.
Paying attention to the details and testing seemingly insignificant aspects of a package can dramatically inform future strategy. Today, we’d like to share with you two big findings of seemingly little tests.
Test #1 — Will asking for a credit card security code on an acquisition reply form hurt response rate?
When making an online purchase, it is now common practice to enter your credit card security code or “CCV” code. Typically the fee to process credit card transactions that include the CCV code are lower, so this could reduce costs slightly. We wanted to learn whether response or income would be affected in a mailing by adding a space for donors to enter this code on the back of the reply, near the credit card box. In addition, the following sentence appeared in small print.
“For Visa, MasterCard and Discover, the three digit CCV security number is printed on the back of the card near the signature panel. For American Express, the four digit security number is printed on the front of the card above the account number.”
Seems harmless enough, right? Besides, the back of the reply form also featured a list of membership benefits.
The results are very clear: adding this request to your reply forms hurts! The test panel had a 108% lower response rate, and lost the test with a 99% confidence interval. Prospects were put off by seeing this on the back of the reply form (and most donors for this group wrote checks, so this shouldn’t have mattered at all).
Being armed with these results, this organization now knows that they can enhance future performance dramatically by not requesting credit card security codes.
Test #2 — Will offering a monthly gift option on the back of an appeal reply form secure a few new monthly donors without hurting response rate?
Everyone wants more monthly donors. One group tested adding a box to the back of the reply form offering different ways to sign up for monthly giving. The only change to the package was the addition of this box next to the credit card area in packages to low dollar donors.
The goal was to add this option to the reply form without hurting response or average gift AND convert some donors to monthly giving. Frankly, even if no one became a monthly donor but response and revenue projections were met, we would consider this a win — it helps in marketing the monthly donor program.
Results? This time, the confidence interval on the results was not statistically significant. However, the test had a 3% higher response rate and the same average gift as the control… and four donors converted to monthly giving.
Our hypothesis was proven — offering the monthly gift option on the reply form for low dollar donors did not have a negative impact on results. So, now this organization periodically adds this monthly donor box to the back of appeals, picking up a dozen or more new monthly donors each time!
As you can see, you learn a great deal from testing — even when on the surface the test seems like it would never make a big difference. When in doubt — test, test, test!
Back to Top >>
The Increase In Paper Costs
While paper cost increases are nothing new, starting in 2010 you can expect to see them more frequently. Starting early in 2010, the cost of paper is expected to rise each quarter. After years of consolidation, there are only a few big companies left in the paper industry. And recently, as demand decreased, paper mills have started to shut down more machines.
In addition to limiting production, some brands and types of papers that weren’t cost-effective to produce have been discontinued. As choices and supply dwindle, it naturally causes costs to rise. And, as this occurs, paper mills are listening to their customers and coming up with better products.
Direct mail will still remain a very cost-effective channel for both commercial and nonprofit organizations to maintain communication with current audiences and reach out to prospective ones. However, everyone should be aware of these paper cost increases when preparing their print budgets.
Of course, the simplest way to keep your costs under control is to print as many components and pieces at once and store them for future use. The more ‘units’ printed, the cheaper the cost per unit. Additionally, choosing a standard paper, such as a 60# white offset, that the existing mills regularly produce, will help keep costs as low as possible.
Remember, paper and printing make up a significant portion of an organization’s direct mail budget. So plan ahead for those price increases!
Back to Top >>
Client Profile: Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine
Since 1985, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has worked to end animal suffering and promote compassionate, ethical medicine throughout the United States. Based in Washington, DC, PCRM’s efforts are diverse. As advocates — PCRM works to end the use and abuse of animals in testing laboratories and medical schools across the country in favor of more effective teaching methods. As educators — PCRM’s team of researchers, scientists and nutritionists are teaching health care professionals and the public about nutrition’s role in good health. As humanitarians — PCRM is actively protecting the lives of all living beings.
Their efforts have been effective. In 2009, PCRM raised public awareness of the cruelty inflicted on animals during U.S. military training — resulting in the introduction of a new bill in Congress which would stop this antiquated practice. And thanks to PCRM, all but eight medical schools in the United States have eliminated live animal labs from their curricula. In addition, PCRM’s research has lead to breakthroughs in diabetes and other diseases while educating millions on the importance of a healthy diet.
Lautman Maska Neill & Company has proudly partnered with PCRM’s development team since 2006, helping execute a wide variety of multi-channel fundraising strategies.
Always innovative, PCRM actively communicates with over 100,000 donors and supporters using a variety of channels — traditional direct mail, telemarketing and email (where their donors are particularly active). In fact, when there is an urgent need for support, PCRM donors are extremely receptive and give generously online.
Their successful fundraising efforts over the years have led to accolades from organizations like Fundraising Success Magazine, Convio and the DMAW. And, perhaps an even greater achievement, in 2010 PCRM celebrates its 25th anniversary — congratulations, PCRM!
Back to Top >>
Lautman Maska Neill & Company Gives Back
As 2009 came to a close, Lautman Maska Neill & Company helped spread holiday cheer to local families in need. Through Volunteers of America’s Chesapeake chapter, the Lautman team sponsored several families who currently receive transitional housing support. Employee and company donations included necessities like clothing, towels, gifts cards and toys. Lautman Maska Neill & Company is proud to be able to help those in need during the holiday season.
Back to Top >>