Prospecting for Donors
For some sage advice on how to find new names to successfully prospect for donors in today's market, Target Marketing's Alicia Orr Suman talked with Joanne DelGiorno, managing director of direct response marketing at the American Diabetes Association.
Target Marketing: Please describe for us the current prospecting environment for fund raising. How has it changed in the past year?
DelGiorno: The environment for prospecting has been a challenge. Of course, there always are outside factors that you can never account for when you're planning your annual budget. However, this year has been like no other in recent memory. Luckily, the methodology we've used for prospecting has been flexible enough to adjust to the environmental pressures we've faced this fiscal year.
An ongoing challenge is keeping lists fresh while maintaining our large mailing volumes. In a program as large as ours, burn out on lists due to over-saturation can become an issue. This is an area where your list broker's knowledge and expertise is key to your program's success.
TM: From a list perspective, how has your donor solicitation strategy changed since Sept. 11?
DelGiorno: Because our strategy has been sound and our forecasting thorough, we've maintained the same list strategies we had in place before Sept. 11. We haven't made any special adjustments to our list selections due to the events; however, we did a special insert in all of our mailings (acquisition and renewal) that addressed the national crisis.
TM: How important is working with a list broker to your new-donor prospecting efforts?
DelGiorno: I consider our list broker, Listworks, an integral part of our marketing team. Our list broker's services are required as early in the process as our strategy sessions for each mailing. We discuss list issues such as new lists, past list performance, projections by list, seasonality, etc.
A really good list broker becomes fully immersed in the list-selection process. The broker should be able to analyze your data and come to the table with recommendations based on the big picture of your program.
TM: How do you find a knowledgeable broker, one who will do more than just get you lists?
DelGiorno: Network, network, network. Talk to other direct marketing professionals and ask about brokers you've heard about from agencies and other organizations. Interview your candidates to see which broker best fits your program's needs.
A successful acquisition program is very much a team effort, so you want to be sure your team members are a good fit for your organization based on an overall strategic plan. Ensure that your list broker knows about what's happening in the industry and can give advice based on trends. Also look for a broker who has flexible methodology that will allow you to make changes to your program based on the data you get from analyzing results.
TM: What information does your list broker need from you to best serve your needs?
DelGiorno: A list broker needs to know up front what our expectations are for revenue, expense ratio and number of new donors by mailing and by fiscal year. We've found that keeping close communication and an open working relationship has been the key to our success in a brokerage relationship.
TM: What are you finding to be the best new sources of names now?
DelGiorno: They come from our broker's ability to research new lists based on information we provide them about diabetes and diabetes-related diseases. Our brokerage team then finds lists that match these ideas. The team effort has paid off, and we've uncovered new categories of successful lists using this method.
TM: Have any non-traditional sources of names been recommended and worked for you that you'd recommend other fund-raisers consider testing?
DelGiorno: Ask your broker to look at your lists by category codes. Review what categories are popping out as being most successful, and search for additional lists in these categories. You may be surprised to find that the obvious categories that relate to your organization aren't the ones that work the best.
I also recommend testing lists that have traditionally been considered "too young" for direct mail donors. If you can catch the wave of baby boomers that are out there, you may just breathe new life to your file.