Non-Profit Fundraising Strategies: Assumptions versus Data

By nature, people think that their ideas are shared by other people. We believe our ideas will be the most successful and work best for whatever we are trying to achieve. For those of you who have children, recall how many times you were given advice on the best way to get your child to eat, sleep, read, etc… And then recall how often someone else’s methods worked the same for your children as it did for the person giving  you that advice. In my opinion, rarely.

Non-Profit Direct mail fundraising is like that. You cannot concoct a direct mail strategy based on how your friend John responds to direct mail, or how your friend’s cousin’s college roommate responds. In this industry, opinions are secondary to hard data.

Often, when I am meeting with a client and discussing direct mail strategy, someone at the meeting says, “I don’t respond to direct mail but I think…..”. Even if one individual’s opinion were to guide your non-profit fundraising strategy (and it shouldn’t), it certainly would not be the person who admitted they don’t respond to direct mail!

Those involved with direct mail must guard against the inclination to use their own opinions as a deciding factor in strategy.


In Non-Profit Fundraising Remove Your Basic Assumptions


To be clear we all make mistakes. For example, we had a client who for years had us offer a free monthly newsletter as incentive for a certain level of donation. We assumed this free back-end premium could only help. We finally did what we shoud have done in the very beginning – tested it!

It turns out the offer of the free newsletter DEPRESSED response. As a mattter of fact the version that did NOT offer the free monthly newsletter, but was the same in every other way, brought in 122% more donations, AND had a 118% higher average gift AND raised 144% more gross dollars!

Our assumption was completely wrong and we would not have known this if we had not tested.

Remember: “when you assume you make an a-s out of you and me!”  So follow the data and test…and then do it again.

The realization that your idea may not be the most successful can be a blow to the ego, but is an undeniable truth in the field of Direct Marketing. Direct Marketing looks at data, not assumptions. And we create, and execute, a plan based on that irrefutable data. This is certainly true in non-profit direct mail fundraising.

Look at the data and forget your assumptions.

For more tips on running a Direct Mail Program, click on the icon below for a free download of our Ebook – Keys to a Successful Direct Mail Campaign: