Oxfam NZ’s high-level donor product has reached its goal of 100 donors and $1.5 million thanks to leveraging its donor data. Story by Rochelle Nolan.

In 2009, Oxfam NZ decided to create a major donor product which would involve a standard offer that could be made to a large number of supporters. Oxfam also wanted to offer supporters increased engagement through both feedback and thanks.

Then relationship development manager of Oxfam NZ, Malcolm Sproull, developed the Oxfam100 – a pledge giving club for 100 donors willing to pledge $5,000 a year for three years. Each member of the Oxfam100 was given the choice to support one of three clusters of projects (Working Lives, Water for Survival, or Peace and Refuge) and receive regular, personalised updates on the projects within their cluster.

Partnerships officer, Lettie Bright, says the initiative gave supporters an opportunity to have a say in how their donation was spent and be more involved with the organisation over a three year period. “This benefitted Oxfam in terms of forward planning, and the supporter in terms of a more tangible allocation of their gift.”

Data mining identifies prospects

Oxfam NZ felt the initiative was best suited to warm donors. Staff used recency, frequency and monetary value analysis to identify people already in Oxfam’s supporter base who were good candidates. The monetary value initially focussed on individuals who had given a lump sum of $1,000 or more in the past 12 months, or were regular givers of $120 or more per month. Once that pool of donors had been approached, the criteria was revised down to donors who had given a lump sum of over $500, and then of over $300.

Club membership builds affiliation

The Oxfam100 product is based on belonging to a small, exclusive group of dedicated supporters, as well as having a choice about where a donation is spent. “The messaging of the program was about investing in making lasting changes to people’s lives by taking successful programs further, and reaching more people, faster. It also promoted the benefits of being involved, such as a more personal relationship with Oxfam,” says Bright.

Making the ask

Oxfam used a three-step sales pipeline process to approach supporters: phone, mail, phone. Oxfam made calls in the evenings to prospects, briefly describing the program and asking permission to send a proposal.

“The three-step process gave people more control – they could say ‘yes’ to receiving more information without having to make an immediate commitment to a big donation,” says Bright.

People who agreed to receive more information were mailed a proposal document outlining the case for support and describing how the program worked. They also received a letter of thanks for their consideration, a pledge form and an eight minute DVD backing up the main points in the proposal and showing footage from the programs.

A follow up phone call was planned 10-15 days later to ask if they would be interested in becoming a member or had queries.

Bright says this three step process was both effective and appropriate. “$5,000 a year for three years is a big ask for a lot of people. It’s not a quick decision. The proposal gave weight to the initiative; it was something they could read over and consider. It gave them some breathing space. Some people took months to decide, so we made sure no one felt any pressure, but had support available if they wanted it.”

Of all people contacted, 14% joined.

A sense of belonging

Oxfam NZ says donors have responded well to the opportunity to be a part of something. Members of the Oxfam100 enjoy meeting the staff, and have also enjoyed getting to know each other at a series of meetings held in some cities.

Oxfam100 members receive 3-4 communications a year, which balance statistics and facts with emotive case studies. “The level of engagement our donors want varies; some like to see pictures and get detailed reports, others don’t need that. Most donors have enjoyed the face to face meetings – it makes the projects they give to more tangible, and the work Oxfam does more transparent,” says Bright.

Results par excellence

With a retention rate of 98%, the Oxfam100 has been a huge success, raising $1.5 million over three years. In addition to this, members are more engaged with the organisation – some have requested further information on other campaigns and appeals, and others have confirmed they will leave a bequest to Oxfam.

Bright says the success of the Oxfam100 has encouraged the organisation to start a mid-level donor program, inviting supporters to make an annual donation of $1,000. Oxfam also plans to maximise the success of the Oxfam100 – even though the number of members has reached its goal. The new program won’t have a limit on the number of members.

“The new program will be called the ‘Oxfam100 Club’ in honour of the first 100 people who took that step,” says Bright. “Our current supporters like the idea, and we think new supporters will enjoy knowing that people have gone before them and enjoyed the program – and were appreciated for it.”

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