publication date: Jul 18, 2012
These people have been writing cheques in response to direct
mail appeals for years. Let's start treating them like major donors, figure out
some way to deal with them individually and stop sending them all that nuisance
It's a surprisingly common idea, says Jeff Brooks
. The trouble is, usually only the easy part - dropping the
high-performing donors from the direct mail program - is implemented. They're
handed off to major donor officers who are already busy, and they fall between
The next step in that scenario is attrition at a truly
frightening rate. Instead of the normal loss of 20% annually, these now-neglected
donors lapse at a rate of 90%. "And once they're lapsed," Brooks warns, "most
will never come back."
It might sound like a mistake you'd never make. But Brooks
says he's seen it in his own practice dozens of times. The revenue loss,
depending on the size of the group, can be several hundred thousand dollars or
even millions of dollars. Every year. For the next several years.
"The person who makes that decision is a mortal enemy to
your fundraising revenue," Brooks concludes. "They should not be making
decisions of that magnitude. Chances are, they shouldn't be making any
Unless you have a specific, individual plan for every active
donor you're considering dropping from the direct mail program, leave them
where they are. Your revenue will be better for it.