One of the sessions I attended at the 2011 Bridge Conference was, “Donor Acquisition in the New Normal.”  The speakers shared ideas, methods and strategies on how they’ve created and/or maintained successful acquisition programs during the recession.

Here are the highlights from one of the session speakers who was from The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

First and foremost: DO NOT CUT BACK ON ACQUISITION.  The NPCA wanted to cut costs in 2003 so leadership slashed their direct mail acquisition program.  It took them until 2011 to recover from that decision.  This meant that when the last recession hit, NPCA never considered cutting back on the program.

General lesson learned: Mail each month (NPCA mails about 8.5 million pieces per year).  Their revenue is approximately 4% higher than two years ago and they gained 32% MORE acquisition contacts in the past fiscal year while keeping their costs down.

Athena the owl shares testing tips

Test, test, test:  Read the graphic above to see what the wise owl Athena liked about NPCA’s testing tips. (Athena the owl is just a pal I found online; she isn’t affiliated with the association.)

In addition, NPCA uses a survey in one of its control packages.  They tested varying the tone of that survey to inch up response.

And with regard to what to test on premiums … test whether to include them or not … test freemiums versus backend fulfillment … and test different premiums with different controls.

NPCA also found success in testing different channels to convert online activists to donors. 

They sent a direct mail package to their online activists.  The campaign included a pre-email, the DM letter, a telemarketing call after the letter was received, and a follow-up email.  This occurred over 4 months.

I regret that I couldn’t copy all of the data fast enough, but the telemarketing calls got the highest response, 2.35 – 2.65% response (considerably higher than the emails; but remember that each “touch” positively impacts the overall campaign results).

Finally, they stressed that telemarketing works great for their acquisition program.  These are WARM calls to online activists, event participants, visitors, and ticket buyers ― prospects and supporters they’ve found in other channels.

Wrap up:  It’s essential to have a strong acquisition program (that includes direct mail) regardless of the economy.  Include plenty of continuous testing to tweak your packages and campaigns.  And integration improves overall response because multiple channels reinforce each other.

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