by guest blogger Lisa Sargent, fundraising copywriter, donor communications specialist, and rabid defender of direct mail.
Here's what happened when a real-life charity -- forever to remain anonymous -- decided to clean up their house file.
At ABC Charity, response rates were not stellar on mailings to warm donors. At least, what they thought were warm donors. Calculations showed that on a house file of 15,000, just 4% -- 600 people -- gave in response to ABC's direct mail appeals.
Finally ABC Charity decided to take a deeper look at its files...
They found, among other things, more than a thousand dead donors (1,500 to be precise) plus another 5,000 one-time event participants. No matter how you slice it, these are decidedly not warm donors.
Here's what happens to that original 4% response rate: Taking only these two factors into account, the true "warm file" now numbers 8,500. And 600 responses to a mailing of that size works out to 7.1%. What's more, the charity will save thousands in future postage and print costs.
I don't know about you, but that would sure change the way I looked at the overall success of a mailing -- and with respect to the 5,000 one-time participants it would change my communications strategy completely.
Database and audience matter more than creative.
(And yes, the file cleanup was long overdue. Still, kudos to ABC for getting it done. Baby steps, baby steps.)