Measuring the success of your donor appeal

Posted by Mary Badovinac on Jun 15, 2016 8:30:00 AM

measures.jpgMeasurement boosts ROI and saves money.

You invested time, effort, and money into planning, creating, and producing an appeal. You obsessed over every detail from the creative to the cost to the timing before sending it to a carefully selected list.

So, in a few months, when your director asks how much money the appeal earned, will you know the answer? If you don’t (or you have to guess) it’s probably because you skipped a vital step in your appeal effort — measurement. And how will you know if you don't measure?

Know how your appeal performed

Recently, I spoke to a group of nonprofit fundraisers in my area. During the Q&A period, most of the questions related to fundraising tactics such as planning, creating, and executing a direct mail appeal. They were good questions, but I was more interested in a topic that didn’t come up — no one asked about measurement. Since some of these people were highly experienced fundraisers, it told me that measurement is considered less important than other aspects of appeal efforts. But it shouldn’t be this way. 

Measurement may sound obvious, but I’m often surprised by how little thought is given to this crucial part of fundraising. So when I was asked by the group what the most important point I wanted them to take away from my presentation was, my response was this: You should always know how your appeal performed.

Measuring your donor appeals is critical because it's the only way to know if it succeeded. It also boosts ROI and saves you money.

Measurement creates better future campaigns

Without exception, every appeal should include a method for measuring response. Neglecting this will likely cost your organization money. Your measurement method can be as simple as including a code on the response device, and then making sure the information gets entered into your donor database. This measurement should include counting any donations to the URL or social media mentioned in your mail piece.

But what if you didn’t include a method to measure response? Simple: do a match back report to track donations back to the mail file within the appropriate time frame.

These basic methods allow you to track the effectiveness of different lists, creative tests, ask tables, in home dates, and other factors. But proper measurement does more than just help you determine your ROI. It’s also a great teacher.

By measuring, you learn what worked and what didn’t. And the more you learn, the more effective your future appeals will be. It also allows you to compare results from year to year so you can continually refine and improve your program.

Topics: Fundraising, Nonprofits, Direct Mail

Mary Badovinac

Written by Mary Badovinac

Mary has more than 30 years of direct mail experience including lead generation, membership programs, and customer acquisition. She has worked with Planned Parenthood affiliates across the U.S. on a wide variety of programs since 1988.