How has your expenditure changed in recent years in regards to donor acquisition and donor retention programs/communications?

How has your expenditure changed in recent years in regards to donor acquisition and donor retention programs/communications?

John De Rango, director of Redstone Marketing, asks four leading fundraisers from different causes for their perspective.

Jonathan Wright
Public and community marketing manager
Plan International Australia

In terms of acquisition, activity at Plan in recent years has focussed on trying to find alternative channels to grow our supporter base. While direct approach (face-to-face fundraising) is a popular and effective channel for acquiring high volumes, the associated higher levels of attrition make it important to complement face-to-face with more sustainable channels. For Plan, this has meant focussing on improving the quality of our online experience and acquiring new donors through a single gift ask approach.

Online expenditure has been aimed at assisting and maximising the effectiveness of our offline activities. This ensures greater integration of multi-channel campaigns and a focus on an efficient and effective online sign-up process.

After internal testing and benchmarking analysis, we decided to grow our single-gift donor base. New single givers respond well to cross-sell campaigns that promote regular giving products, while also helping to replenish our appeals base.

Expenditure on retention has not dramatically changed, but rather been focussed on making continual improvements to the supporter experience. In recent years this has included enhancing key pieces of communication and increasing the amount of communications from the field. This has resulted in a more effective retention program, along with improving our transparency to donors, and conveying a greater level of authenticity.

Here at Plan, we continually test new initiatives aimed at specific supporter groups or communication channels. This may include increased activity to face-to-face acquired supporters within their first six months of giving or cross-selling lower priced complementary giving products to existing donors. As a result, donor commitment has increased, along with our share of the donor dollar.

Whether the initiative involves acquisition or retention, a key priority at Plan is to ensure we can record, share and build on the lessons learnt.

Carl Young
Fundraising director
Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation

Over the past 18 months, with the support of a fundraising-savvy board and executive director, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation has embarked upon an ambitious donor acquisition plan, seeking to significantly increase and retain its number of active donors. Our long-term goal is to double net income over the next five years.

With its positive brand recognition and high public awareness surrounding cancer issues, Peter Mac’s main acquisition investment has been through direct mail and face-to-face recruitment. Both methods have generated positive returns, culminating in a 66% growth in the number of active donors over the past 18 months.

Success in donor acquisition brings other challenges and further investment is inevitable. At Peter Mac, we’ve had to invest in staff resources to service our growing number of donors, as well as address the operational challenges of processing donations promptly. The need for improved donor collateral and clear communication and retention tactics has also been a key focus. This is especially relevant for our newly acquired face-to-face donors during their critical first six months bonding period.

An increase in our regular monthly giving database has created a large enough pool of new donors to provide cost-effective investment in segmented retention activities. With Peter Mac managing a diverse face-to-face acquisition program (both contracted agencies and an in-house team), the need to have an effective operational structure is critical. Measuring performance, effectively servicing new donors and managing delinquency rates have all become increasingly important.

Investment in retention for face-to-face acquired donors can most certainly be integrated with other donor care activities – such as those planned for cash and ad-hoc donors. In addition, integrated acquisition and donor development programs will help ensure the donor experiences (both pre and post acquisition) is consistent with Peter Mac’s messaging, brand and values. All these activities will assist us to achieve increasing returns on all of our fundraising programs.

Pamela Sutton-Legaud
Executive director
Zoos Victoria Foundation

When I arrived at Oxfam Australia, my first nonprofit role, in 1999, I introduced the first commercial face-to-face fundraising campaigns, which were a huge success. Growth rates of 2000 new supporters per month were achieved, with no immediate end in sight. It seemed like we’d found the ‘next big thing’ that was beating every other recruitment channel – both in terms of response rates and cost per acquisition.

It was soon obvious that, although face-to-face fundraising drove high acquisition, it was at a cost. It required very liquid cash flow and also had high attrition rates. It would drive huge numbers for the medium to long-term before becoming too expensive. But this didn’t stop other charities and new providers getting into the channel. All soon learned that success (an excellent long-term return on investment) could only be achieved with strong back-end systems, regular staff recruitment and training, intricate clawback management procedures and, again, a high level of cash flow to keep everything moving.

As the costs of face-to-face recruitment continue to climb and the volume levels decrease, charities are less willing – and less able post-Global Financial Crisis – to invest in programs to the same extent. I’ve seen more investment in online fundraising programs to drive one-off gifts as well as a greater commitment to major gift and bequest development.

While the face-to-face channel has matured, the benefits of regular giving programs should not be overlooked. I would like to see more investment in this area. It would be a shame to see charities under-invest in a revenue channel which provides reliable, projectable income because they have not found a new ‘golden goose’ to replace face-to-face fundraising.

Mark Stewart
Head of development
Burnet Institute

Non-government funding plays a vital role in providing the Burnet Institute with the flexibility it needs to continue its innovation and to provide flexibility at key points in time.

In 2010, the decision was made to shift Burnet’s fundraising strategy from an event-based focus to a relationship-based fundraising model. This involved a shift away from medium and large scale events. Our events traditionally involved many people but didn’t prove to be very successful at engaging and converting people as supporters of the institute. The focus now is to develop a deeper level of engagement around our work with our existing and prospective donors.

As a result, we have recently restructured the fundraising team. We are aiming to better communicate with our donors about the impact of our work – which is especially difficult due to the breadth of the research and development that we undertake.

We now have a full time stewardship officer whose role is to develop donor and prospect engagement, and find upgrade opportunities through a greater understanding of our donors and synergies between their interests and the work of Burnet. These donors include individuals, private ancillary funds and corporates.

Individual acquisition is becoming much more targeted. We are concentrating on smaller scale acquisition activities to selected segments that demonstrate very clear alignment with the goals, objectives or specific health themes of the Burnet Institute.

A greater proportion of institute communications (print, web and social media) are receiving content from the fundraising department, predominately from a stewardship angle but also to illustrate the impact and results of fundraising efforts.

With 2011 being our 25th anniversary, we are now able to clearly identify the long-term benefit of the medical developments and population health programs which have come from the Burnet Institute. Our challenge now is to continue collecting this information and distributing it to our audience.