Asking supporters their thoughts on including Bush Heritage Australia in their wills, by mail then a phone call from a telefundraising agency, has proven effective for the national conservation organisation, Liz Henderson reveals.

Bush Heritage Australia BequestsWith about 27% of Bush Heritage Australia’s income from bequests, and two prior years of acquisition having swelled the supporter base from 15,000 to 40,000 people helping to conserve biodiversity across Australia, in 2015 “our plan was to continue to grow the bequest program in line with the overall growth,” says Rebecca Passlow, who is the organisation’s Philanthropy Executive, Bequests.

Also a 2014 letter then phone call to bequest prospects identified in past surveys had been “really successful,” says Passlow. “It prompted us to think who else on our supporter database might be thinking of including us in their will.”

The intention was to directly invite supporters to confirm their intention to leave the charity a gift, testing their uptake and interest to optimise future engagement work by the small team.

A group of 649 long-term supporters of 10+ years, aged 65 to 80, were selected to first receive a personalised letter from Passlow. An informative DL bequest brochure, and a response mechanism encouraged people to indicate if they were interested or not. Then after five weeks, a phone call was made to non-responders.

“These are people that wouldn’t have had a direct bequest ask before – it had otherwise been that drip-drip campaign behind the scenes, like tick boxes on bottoms of appeal letters and some articles in newsletters,” says Passlow.

So the telephone scripts were tailored accordingly with a soft ask. KPIs directly related to the bequest ask weren’t set, as the initiative was going to be used to assess the success of the program.

Testing use of an external supplier

One key aspect tested by the campaign, was the effectiveness of using an external telefundraising agency, Cornucopia Fundraising, for a bequest campaign instead of conducting phone calls in-house as Bush Heritage Australia had done in 2014. While this had achieved a high contact and response rate, with a warm audience and small data-set, it was a very time-consuming process.

To still maintain the feel of a personalised call was extremely important to the organisation. “It was really about ensuring the agency was well briefed,” says Passlow. “I went up to Queensland and sat down with the staff up there and gave them an overview of the demographics of our supporter base and some of the conversations we’ve had.”

“Because this can be a really personal area we wanted to make sure the calls were in a friendly and conversational manner. We also wanted to avoid ‘false positives’, where supporters indicate interest to avoid confrontation. So it was training call staff to understand who they were speaking to and how to approach the conversation.”

Throughout the campaign, open communications with Cornucopia helped. These included regular weekly catch-ups to discuss issues. Tweaks were made to the script early on, as the organisation wanted to start the bequest invitation earlier in the phone call.

A positive message from good results

With projected future income from the campaign of $163,632 for mail and $641,262 for phone (see Table A), “The model was successful and the approach was successful in terms of a direct mail followed by a phone call,” says Passlow. “Direct mail got a low response, but when combined with calling we had quite a significant response rate – that key learning means we will re-test the same approach again.”

Importantly 267 supporters indicated they weren’t interested (see Table B), meaning attention can be focused on future stewardship of those who are, who can also now be categorised by their preferences.

All respondents subsequently received a qualifying phone call from  Bush Heritage Australia’s bequest team, and were provided with extra information they’d requested. Stewarding will continue through phone calls and events about Bush Heritage Australia and bequests.

People who said they intended making a decision in the near future will be contacted again in six months, with follow-up in 12 to 18 months for enquirers and those who indicated they wouldn’t think about it for a few years. “It’s just a philosophy of keeping the idea in people’s minds,” says Passlow.

Table A: Projected income and return on investment (ROI)*

Phase

Cost

Projected income

ROI

Cost per positive response

ROI per result

Direct mail

$1,428.00

$163,632.50

11,359%

$385.95

$43,839.05

Phone

$6,771.60

$641,262.50

9,370%

$467.01

$43,757.99

*Based on 2013-2014 bequest median of $44,225; 100% of intending supporters leaving a gift; and confirmation from 50% of enquirers and 10% of those considering

Table B: Response by channel

Response

Supporters

Response rate

 

Letter

Phone

Letter

Phone

Confirmed

1

4

0.15%

0.85%

Intended

2

2

0.31%

0.42%

Considering

2

25

0.31%

5.31%

Further enquiry

1

12

0.15%

2.55%

Not interested

47

220

7.24%

46.71%

Deceased

1

1

0.15%

0.21%

No response

595

207

91.68%

43.95%

 

649

471

 

 

 

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