The Key to Success is in the Data
Helping non-profits reach their objectives for fundraising and retention requires print service providers to use a new approach; different from how they’ve interacted with customers for decades. Print vendors must dedicate more time to probing, analyzing, and testing than they might apply to traditional direct mail campaigns. A file of names and addresses imaged on pre-printed shells will not yield the desired results. The key to non-profit success is in the data.
A non-profit organization’s data could be outdated or in disarray. Print service providers may have to help their non-profit clients assess, augment, and use the data necessary to make their fundraising campaigns successful. It is important to do this work before attempting to design compelling variable data campaigns.
Start with an analysis of the data that exists within the non-profit’s donor databases:
- What information have they captured?
- Did they record the information in a consistent manner?
- Is information missing from some records?
- Are there known duplicates?
- Is the data centralized or is it spread across several departments or locations?
- How old is the data?
Next, assess the accuracy of the data. Software that print service providers commonly use to validate mailing lists may be helpful in performing accuracy tasks.
- Standardize postal address formats with Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS)-certified software
- Compare addresses with the US Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) database
- For older data, further move-update processing may be necessary, using additional data sources
- Validate field structures, such as searching for the required elements in email addresses or verifying all ten digits are present in phone numbers
- Look for exceptions, such as missing (or extra) field and record delimiters or excessively long data elements
- Cross-reference donor files with databases listing deceased or incarcerated people
Then repair the data:
- Reformat dissimilar data files into a common data layout
- Add missing data elements
- Merge files
- Resolve duplicates
- Remove unlikely donors (moved from target area, deceased, etc.)
- Standardize data item usage such as the order of first and last names, professional titles, and name suffixes
- Isolate non-conforming records and route to human inspectors for manual remediation
Finally, augment the non-profit’s internal data with third-party data sources that provide demographic and lifestyle attributes of individual donors. The non-profit can name the data points that help them segment donors according to their propensity to respond, volunteer, or donate. Find data sources that offer data enhancement and analytics.
Once the data is complete and in a workable format, predictive modeling techniques are used to compare profiles of known donor groups to the larger universe of prospects. Accurate profiles drive the messaging and imaging used in personalized campaign materials. There may be many factors that control which images to use or which text blocks are most suitable. Simply recognizing a donor’s population category can make a big difference.
Boomers, Retirees, and Millennials
Three key age groups for non-profits are Boomers, Retirees and Millennials. Baby boomers are 49 percent more likely than their parents’ generation to demand information about how nonprofits will use donated money. 44 percent of them want to direct how the non-profit will use their charitable gifts, compared with only 15 percent of their parents’ generation.
A direct mail piece or email message directed to baby boomers should include details about the impact of suggested donations. Retirees donate more of their time as volunteers than any other group. Stressing the fellowship opportunities in volunteering with less emphasis on statistical data taps into their natural desires.
Millennials grew up using smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Constant connectedness is a way of life. Millennials rely on social media, websites, search engines, and instant access to mobile technology. They care about how an organization is making a real difference and improving lives. They are less concerned about a non-profit’s decades-old brand identity.
Messages designed to appeal to Millennials should be mobile-optimized, include plenty of images, and make it easy for them to share news of their contributions with their friends. The shared content should also make it easy for the friends to join in, match, or outdo others in their social networks, organically growing the donor database. Over half of Millennials surveyed said they were interested in monthly contributions. An automatic recurring donation option would be a wise feature to include in communications with Millennials.
Printers Provide Leadership
Segmentation by age group is just one example of how accurate data can make a big difference in the effectiveness of direct mail and multi-channel campaigns. Each non-profit has its own set of donor/member and sponsor characteristics that can inform campaign strategy and design to create relevant specific messages that drive response and conversions. If a non-profit client cannot describe the attributes that influence response and retention among their donors, members and sponsors, their print service provider must step in and help them with a strategy to test and validate their data.
Much of the value a printer can offer a non-profit client is associated with the collection, analysis, and application of data. The actual printed materials, while still important, are of secondary importance. If the non-profit fails to send the right messages to the right people through their preferred channels their campaigns will be less effective and more costly to execute. Continuing to mail higher volumes more frequently sounds like a good strategy for the printing vendors, but it is only a short-term win, at best. Non-profits need strategic partners that can enable them to improve retention and acquisition of donors, members and sponsors to justify their direct marketing and communications programs. Print service providers that enable non-profits to improve campaign results will position themselves for long-term successful client relationships based on value not price.