email fundraising, fundraising

Learning and Live Blogging. Case Study #2: Email Frequency at a National Organization

0 Comments 27 April 2009

image by borman 818

image by borman 818

Attending NTEN”s National Technology Conference Session called Best of the Best: Integrated Fundraising Case Studies. Presented by Jeff Patrick by Common Knowledge. I’ll be live blogging this event.

Overview: a medium-sized national veterans’ organization test campaigns. Which type of appeal will be most effective? Ran a controlled test.

Used three types of fundraising appeals for three test groups: divided into Direct Mail, High frequency Email and Low Frequency Email groups with same number of people per gorup. Direct mail group received mail in home at about same time as the email groups received mail in their inboxes.

Organization worried about asking too much and worried about exhausting the recipients. But not true – can cultivate donors and do a “soft” ask. Plus, email cost is minimal.

High frequency email group donated more money than any other group! $32,000 vs. $26,000 from low-frequency email appeal. Because asked more often they got more funds. Low frequency group only asked monthly. But if ask more, you begin to get less and less return. Low frequency appeals outraised the high frequency each time low frequency group was asked to donate, but the difference is that the high frequency group also donated other times they were asked.

One Takeaway: if you ask less frequently online, you will get more per email.

Average open rate: higher with low-frequency group. They also clicked through more often but conversion rates were the same as low-frequency group. Average gifts were 9% lower in the high frequency group. But, total revenue was 23% higher in high frequency group! Average rate of unsubscribers was slightly higher than the in the low frequency email group, but this rate was more than offset by higher revenues. Why? If you cultivate people and give people meaningful information at same time then they are interested in getting your mail.

The Takeaway: You can raise more money from donors if you contact them via email more frequently.

Who would have thought?

Big Takeaways:

Asking more often is fine as long as it includes donor cultivation.

Average gift stayed the same.

Total revenue went up.

Unsubscribers went up a bit, but not enough to offset total value of campaign.

Audience Question: can you get rid of the paper direct mail appeal?

Not if your demographics are 65 and over, which represents cutoff of when people didn’t use computers at work.

Consider it if you are an organization as part of the cost of fundraising and build email list as you are going. Get rid of direct mail with testing, and slowly “dial down” the direct mail. Possibly think about shifting to telephone solicitations. Think about sustainable giving.

Anyone over the age of 38 has a higher tendency to donate via direct mail. Source: Craigslist bootcamp. There is a podcast entitled “Dirty Sexy Money” you can listen to about this.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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