Our non-profit clients often ask us: what can I do to better balance my acquisition of new donors and the revenue from those donors throughout the year? The fourth quarter is the best prospecting time, and it seems the only time for some nonprofits. I remember well when during a meeting, the CFO of an organization plotted the revenue on a chart that showed a very high apex in November and December, which disappeared pretty much throughout the year. His question, “How can we make this more even?”
Before anything else, I think it’s important to remember that comparing any “off-season” campaigns to Holiday campaigns is not necessarily the right approach. The “off season” will lose every time for various reasons. But, if realistic goals and expectations are set, “off season” campaigns can deliver better long-term donors and additional revenue.
It is no secret that 4th quarter is the best fundraising time. But, that is not to say that we should ignore the first three-quarters, especially first and second quarters. Time and time again the results have shown that donors acquired outside of 4th quarter are better donors, more loyal and have better long-term value. If you have tested this strategy a few years ago and thought it did not work, it’s time to test again and make sure you establish proper metrics and goals.
One problem that nonprofits do experience is the higher cost to acquire donors outside of the 4th quarter. It is certainly an investment for returns that will occur down the line. There are various strategies that can be implemented to lower costs and use mailing lists that are less expensive, but highly targeted. There are also various list re-use strategies that can be utilized to gain cost savings. You need to find the sweet spot where the investment and the returns balance more closely.
Test, Test, Test. Allocate a portion of the annual budget to a new campaign, select a few lists that consistently do well and test them at different times of the year. Test different mail dates in the first and second quarter. And, test different packages. You are bound to find a successful “Off Season” campaign and make a point of including it in your annual plan along with the Year End campaign.
Integrate direct mail with a strategic digital campaign for 1st and 2nd quarter prospecting. Digital components such as Search ads, site retargeting, targeted display banners, and custom landing pages works hand in hand to accomplish this goal. If the budget allows, add outdoor, network TV and other off-line resources. The targeted, multi-channel, integrated strategy will deliver enough frequency in the market to deliver the highly coveted “off-season” new donors.