Anthea Iva, the Director of Redstone Marketing, asks fundraisers from three very different charities what they have been doing to improve their direct mail marketing results.

Anthea Iva, the Director of Redstone Marketing, asks fundraisers from three very different charities what they have been doing to improve their direct mail marketing results.


Katherine Ash, Donor Development Manager, Royal Flying Doctor Service – Queensland Section

How has your direct mail marketing been performing over the past 12 months?
Our direct marketing program was redeveloped in mid 2013, resulting in a significant increase across appeals, acquisition and regular giving. Our appeal and acquisition direct mail is hitting key performance targets, and our active donor base has increased by 25% in the last 12 months. This has been very satisfying to observe.

Since introducing small, cause-related premium acquisition packs 18 months ago, not unexpectedly our overall average gift has declined with the large volumes of new donors. Now our focus is centred on regular giving conversion and retention along with developing new products for mid- to high-value donors that will help to boost these values and further engage our supporters.

What have you been doing differently?
Working within tight budgets, we are extremely resourceful. Earlier this year we used return-to-sender premiums from the previous year in a mini in-house acquisition. We made a profit on first gifts and introduced 700 new donors to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Using these premiums is something we’ll continue to do moving forward to help top up the natural attrition of our yearly premium acquisition mailing.
With the focus on regular giving, we have introduced mop-up mailings to our phone campaigns to non-answer prospects in conversion and upgrade. Using existing appeal content, we have seen a 50% bump on top of the regular givers recruited over the phone, at a very low cost per acquisition.
From a donor stewardship perspective, we are further segmenting and personalising our direct mail to cater to mid- and high-value donors, which has resulted in response rates of almost 50% for these segments.
We are utilising email and SMS alongside mail to thank donors and to provide patient updates, feedback on the impact of donations and information on what they’re funding. So regardless of the contact details we possess, and with our donors always at front of mind, we are consistently thanking and showing them the value of their generosity.

Tell us about any wins and/or challenges
We’ve been the benchmark with Pareto Benchmarking for second-gift rates for the last two years and our retention is very positive. However, across the sector this is declining. The challenge we have now is maintaining this as more premium-recruited donors enter our active file, and finding a balance between volume and propensity to convert to regular giving, major gifts and bequests.

Visit Royal Flying Doctor Service – Queensland Section.


Ariana Palmisano, Direct Marketing Manager, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

How has your direct mail marketing been performing over the past 12 months?

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute’s direct mail program has performed solidly over the past year, with gross income increasing by a hefty 79% and our average direct mail gift rate rising from $90.15 to $131.83. Furthermore, we have been able to achieve significant growth in our active donor segment (0-12 months) through re-activating the support of lapsed donors and by a successful acquisition campaign. This combination has seen our previously small pool of active donors grow by a considerable 280% (or by 3,070 donors).

What have you been doing differently?
With a revamped direct mail program, the Victor Chang Institute has mailed a wider pool of lapsed donors to re-engage and reactivate their support. We have also started including premiums in our ‘shoulder appeals’ and made those appeals two-wave as well. Ask strategies have become more aggressive too, looking more closely at a donor’s capacity to give, that is, the donor’s largest gift, not last gift, has been used in ask formulas for those whose largest gift was in the previous 12 months. We have also made appeals more multi-channelled using home page takeovers, sending follow-up emails and making ‘asks’ on social media.
In terms of acquisition, the focus has been on securing second gifts versus attracting large volumes, so we lodged our acquisition campaign around six weeks before tax time. We have for the first time been able do list swaps with other charities and taken advantage of joining a data co-op. We have also tested two creative packs against each other, both adaptations of existing warm campaigns, to maximise return on investment.

Tell us about any wins and/or challenges
Our direct mail wins over the last year include increasing our active donor segment by 280%, gross direct marketing income by 79% and our average direct marketing gift by over 42%.
The challenges have been mostly digital. Traffic and bounce rate on the Victor Chang website hasn’t been conducive to growing online appeal income. Also our EDM conversion rate is not very strong, which is not surprising given a large percentage of our donors were originally acquired through events and we don’t have many email addresses of active donors. Also, because many of our donors were originally brought on through events, they aren’t very direct mail responsive. This, married up with a still relatively small active donor pool, has put a limit on our warm appeal fundraising income capabilities.

Visit Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.


Kim Berry, Director of Communications and Fundraising, International Women’s Development Agency

How has your direct mail marketing been performing over the past 12 months?

The International Women’s Development Agency has seen mixed results over the past 12 months. Our Christmas appeal performed better year on year but our International Women’s Day direct mail campaign did not reach expectations compared with the previous year. Upon reflection, this was no surprise as the International Women’s Day results in 2015 were significantly boosted by our End the Right to Rape campaign. Our annual tax appeal is currently being finalised with mixed results.

What have you been doing differently?
In the spirit of strategically growing a sustainable donor base, we have invested in a ‘test and trial’ discipline over the next few years, commencing with our initial cold mail program for the International Women’s Day campaign earlier this year. The results did not generate the overall desired outcome for our acquisition efforts, however invaluable insights were gained and swiftly acted upon in time for the annual tax appeal.
As an example, feedback we received suggested that our International Women’s Day collateral was not emotionally compelling enough to engage and convert the new targeted segments, nor was the format clear enough. Our tax appeal collateral was therefore reworked, including several lift pieces to support our Unpaid, Unsafe, Unheard campaign. We streamlined our acquisition efforts on two segments, which was based on the results of the International Women’s Day mailing, and then ran AB testing by splitting the segments to receive either the standard white outer envelope versus a purple outer envelope.
We were able to establish that our tax pack was stronger than the International Women’s Day one and, unsurprisingly, the purple envelope generated a slightly higher response. We also identified which list performed best. The tests did not show any distinguishable difference in the average donation value. The 2016/2017 financial year will see us taking a minimum viable testing approach to look at a range of tactics, offers and audiences to inform our future growth strategies.

Tell us about any wins and/or challenges
The greatest success this year was managing appeals in the face of significant staff turnover. We saw half the team returning to their origins around the globe, however detailed handovers, strong evaluations and clear tracking made the transition run fairly smoothly.

Visit International Women’s Development Agency.

Anthea Iva is the Director of Redstone Marketing.


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