First time gifts of $1000 in the mail? Yes, You Can!

I’ve worked in the direct response fundraising field for 30 years. And as far back as I can remember, the conventional wisdom was… you just can’t acquire high dollar donors through direct mail. After all, people reasoned, nobody will rent their best donor names. You have to bring donors in at the low dollar level and move them up the pyramid. Case closed.

But now we have new ways of selecting lists for acquisition mailings and models that can predict higher capacity among your prospects. It’s a new day. Here are some phenomenal results shared recently by Save the Children and the ASPCA during a session at the Bridge conference.

Save the Children tested their control acquisition lists with an ask string of $250, $100, $75, $50 and $30 against a list that had been optimized, using Abacus, for midlevel giving. The ask string on the test was $2500, $1000, $500, $250 and $100. So, what happened? Response rate in the test was down a bit but the average gift was up by 768%.

Now, this mid-level optimization is standard in every Save the Children acquisition campaign and they are running lapsed names through the model as well. In 2018 so far, Save the Children has acquired 600 donors straight into their midlevel giving group at $1,000. But what’s even better, they are also tracking repeat giving and have found that 60% of new donors from the optimized lists gave again in their first year, compared to 42% of new donors from the control lists.

The ASPCA also tested acquiring mid-level donors through the mail, targeting higher dollar lists and adjusting their ask string to $250, $500, 1000. Their initial test was a big win with a .78% response rate, a $348 average gift and net profit from acquisition. And Impact’s client National Park Foundation has acquired more than 200 donors with first time gifts of $1,000—simply by adding the $1,000 option to the acquisition reply. Imagine what will happen when they roll out their high dollar optimized list strategy and some copy tweaks promoting benefits!

The times they have indeed changed. Many organizations are having success acquiring new first donors with gifts of $500, $1,000 or more.  What have you found? Share your success or ask us a question. We’re always happy to talk about all things fundraising.

– Kathy Swayze

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