Magazine article Marketing

In a League of Their Own

Magazine article Marketing

In a League of Their Own

Article excerpt

Charities are way ahead of the commercial world when it comes to direct marketing. Anne Massey looks at what others can learn from the fundraisers

When did you last call in expert help because your mailings were generating only 25% response?

Most direct marketers would be out celebrating this as a success, but last week, a well-known charity called in lifestyle database company NDL International to help it to improve on this.

Anni Greaves, NDL's charities account manager, says: "Last week I visited a charity which was getting only 25% response to its appeals to known supporters -- what are known as 'warm' mailings. This is very poor; 65% would be good. And the reason was immediately obvious. The same donor pack was being sent to warm and cold targets (potential donors who haven't been approached before).

"It is a good and successful recruitment pack, but the charity hadn't realised that committed donors should be treated differently."

A decade ago charity marketers were frequently dismissed as amateur. Today, most direct marketing support industries will cite them as the most successful and innovative professionals around, usually adding the aside: "They could teach marketers in other sectors a thing or two."

So what are the best of the 300 or so charities that use direct marketing doing right, and can other professionals learn anything from them?

Ian Liddicoat, senior manager at Infolink, the profiling, modelling and list generation company, says: "Charities use traditional scoring techniques in ways which have not been used before.

"With cold mailings, they use information about the sort of people who have responded to other charities, to target suitable names and suppress unsuitable ones from cold lists. Then, having attracted response, they segment their databases by the value and frequency of donations.

"For example the St Thomas Blood Transfusion Service wants blood not money, but it needs to encourage the same type of loyalty and affinity as charities. It tracks whether donors respond at the first, second, third, up to the ninth call to give blood. By first targeting those who respond most promptly, it cuts mailing costs. By building lifestyle profiles of these willing donors it can target cold mailings at people with similar characteristics."

Stephen Pigeon, managing director of Target Direct, co-author with NDL International of the Fundraising through Direct Mail guide, is certain they are "at least three to four years ahead of the biggest mailers -- the financial institutions. They treat their donors or customers as individuals, not cannon fodder. They don't force products or appeals down their throat."

Mark Gilden, director of Occam, Ealing, which specialises in reciprocal mailings, list broking and list management and has 40 charity clients, says: "They do something few commercial concerns can manage to do -- exchange information.

"Around 30 major charities belong to the Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers, which meets regularly. At these meetings the members discuss their successes and failures to help each other to raise more money and reduce outlay.

"At the most recent meeting, marketers from non-Third World charities, discussed a commonly-experienced downturn in donations from UK mailings -- because of the success of Rwanda disaster appeals (boosted by graphic media coverage).

"Members decided it would be prudent to hold back on all but Rwandan and essential mailings for a month or two, until media coverage subsides."

Charities are leading the way in their use of reciprocal mailings, too -- mailing to each others' supporters. In the US they are "big across all industries," says Gilden. "Here, only charities do it on any large scale. Cold mailings will get 1% to 1.5% response, reciprocal cold mailings yield 20% to 25% and you save on the cost of buying lists."

All 40 charities working with Occam have allowed it to merge their databases. …

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