A Low-Cost Approach to Renewing Donors

Posted on 12/16/2018

Acquiring new donors is an expensive proposition. And with increasingly tight budgets, annual giving teams have to carefully consider where they are allocating their resources. To maintain high return on investment, it is important to ask the question: where do you invest, and where should you cut back?

One area to consider scaling down is your renewal appeals. Your loyal donors don’t need to be convinced to make a gift since they already have—they already love you. Data shows that donors who give year after year are more likely to continue to contribute, so sending pricey multi-page, glossy appeals may not be necessary.

An invoice-style appeal, sometimes called an “Ugly Betty,” remains popular among annual giving programs due to its simple, no-frills design and low production costs. It doesn’t contain a wordy case for support or compelling pictures. In fact, it looks more like a billing statement than a traditional fundraising piece.

Auburn University sends this type of appeal to their loyalty society members each year. The mailing is printed in-house and is personalized with last gift amounts and gift allocations, so donors can see their previous areas of support. The response card also includes complete contact information, which the team has found to be very effective in eliciting updates. Donors seem to prefer correcting their contact information if it’s printed, versus filling in the blanks when asked.

According to Susan Cowart, Auburn’s Director of Parent and Annual Giving, this type of appeal makes sense for their loyal donors. While graphics and bold images may seem better, a simple letter still does the job. Auburn’s Foy Loyalty Society appeals raise over $400,000 a year, and pre-populating contact information yields 75 percent more updates than their other mailings.

Creativity counts, but consider the best place to use it. Acquiring new donors and stewarding your existing donors are great places to invest your time and resources. But today’s donors are busy, and a simple approach may be the best way to convey an important message to your most loyal supporters: it’s time to renew your gift!

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Rethinking Direct Mail Appeals.