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Dead Response.

Winning with non-traditional lists

If an old cliche counsels against trying to get blood from a stone, many nonprofits would take heed in attempting to bleed stone-cold lists that have been mined ad infinitum. That was the message relayed by direct marketing veterans recently during Direct Marketing Day in New York.

"The traditional donor fundraising efforts were based on attrition," explained Eileen "Dodee" Black, president and chief operating officer of the Arlington, Va.-based Atlantic List Company. "You mailed and just tried to replace people as fast as they fell off your file or as they died. In the last 10 years or so, we realized that we have a dying donor base. People exchange lists with other organizations that have the same donor base and so not only do we have an older donor base, but the crossover is just immense. So if you man the same list over and over you're going to reach a saturation point in your duplication process."

To avoid that saturation, nonprofits are looking to identify new donors. According to Black, the prospective donors are mostly women or husband and wives in their 40s to 60s. They are the baby boomer generation; more affluent and active with more money to give than previous generations. The challenge remains in finding these donors and tapping into their giving potential.

In the case of the Alzheimer Association in Chicago, realizing their giving potential resulted from redirecting attention from the organization's traditional donor response files to soliciting consumer buyers. Mail packages sent to these traditional "catalog shoppers" were tested on a list by list, seasonal and a package bases, to evaluate the effectiveness of the direct mail program.

"On a list by list basis, initially these non-traditional lists did not perform as well as our traditional core donor response files," admitted Daniel Doyle, national director of marketing for the Alzheimer Association. "They were actually the lowest quartile of performance. However, on a long-term performance basis these lists moved to the second highest quartile. This movement from the lowest quartile to the second highest quartile is really different ... low performers on the front end are usually low performers in the long-term. So this significant movement gave us the indication that there was a potential universe for

That universe was targeted with a similar appeal to that of traditional donors proving, at least for the Alzheimer's Association, that the brush is mightier than the pen. The nonprofit extended its front-end Monet notecard premium to the nontraditional lists since the program had already maximized the usage of traditional files. The new target was set on women who shopped high-end catalogs such as Williams Sonoma, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales.

The result was a doubling of revenue and donors that Doyle said would not have been possible by staying solely within the primary marketplace.

"With the note card program we found that we really maximized usage of the traditional files," Doyle explained. "We needed to seek alternative list universes that would allow us to continue our aggressive acquisition goals. These catalogs had a lot of people who were direct mail responsive, who were doing things through the mall. They were mature, affluent and educated women -- which are exactly the kind of people that we want."

An added benefit for the organization was that they found that list rentals in the catalog shopping environment provided two significant benefits; Catalog lists are comprised of a mammoth amount of names and they are often available to fundraisers at a lower rate than they would be to commercial individuals.

Finding names is easy. Finding the right names is not always so cut-and-dried When the Atlantic List Company began working with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation to build a museum and center in Quantico, Va., the process of finding an assembled source of potential donors hit an immediate roadblock.

"The biggest challenge is finding the Marines," explained Maia Worden, vice president, brokerage and operations at Atlantic List Company. "The Marines are not their own branch of the military. They fall under the Department of Navy. We found with list research, that we could get Marines and Navy together but that didn't work. There's so much rivalry between branches and, of course, for dollars that we found that the combined audience didn't work well for us.

As a result, non-traditional lists were identified with the eventual targeted audiences consisting of a general category of veterans, those who had previously donated to the construction of memorials and a law enforcement list. Worden said that choosing to focus on law enforcement was making some assumption about post-military career options but that it was "working out" as a donor source.

Despite the benefits reaped by nonprofits from non-traditional lists, Doyle believes that organizations should not expect results mirroring traditional lists. "The reality is that they're not going to respond on the front-end and on a long-term basis as well as our core donor lists but they certainly have become a major integrated part of our donor acquisition program," he added.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:nonprofitable organizations' fundraising
Author:Causer, Craig
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 15, 2001
Previous Article:It's Not Contagious.
Next Article:Linking Fundraising Options.

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