Investing in Acquisition: How to Get Your Board on Board

June 01, 2013 - by Amy Sukol

There are many challenges when trying to build a base of support using direct response acquisition. Is there a large enough market of potential donors for your cause?  Do you have sufficient name recognition?  Can the organization afford to invest in acquiring new donors?  But perhaps the biggest challenge is getting Board approval.

Many promising direct mail acquisition programs have been halted (or severely limited) because the Board would not approve the ongoing investment. While good boards understand that you have to spend money to make money, it's harder to make that choice when it means that funds that would have gone to accomplishing your mission are instead used for fundraising expenses.

So how do you make the case?

The key is showing both the short- and long-term benefits of building a broad base of support through direct response acquisition. Here are some of the most important points to develop when you go to your Board.

  • A (Relatively) Short-Term Investment  Create five-year growth projections for the program. The investment period in a successful direct response program should end by year three, or four at the latest. All investment should be recovered by year five. At this point, the program should generate increasing net revenue in every subsequent year. So while the organization does need to invest — that investment is a relatively short–term one.

  • Direct Response Programs Provide a Reliable Base of Support?  During the recession, many organizations that relied on individual major donors and foundations for the majority of their funding found themselves in very bad straits. Major donors reduced their support and many foundations lost fund value (and thus reduced their giving) during this time.  While direct response programs were affected by the recession, the impact was cushioned by the fact that most direct response donors kept giving — especially to the groups they cared about the most.
  • A Strong Direct Response File Can Be an Excellent Source Of Major and Planned Gifts  Direct mail donors are the gift that keeps on giving. Beyond the immediate net revenue that a direct response program generates for an organization, it also represents an excellent pool of prospects for upgrading to major and planned gifts. In fact, most organizations with direct response programs find that the vast majority of their bequests come from donors who were acquired through the mail and previously gave relatively small gifts.

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