Guideposts uses action and in-pack premiums to get donors

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WASHINGTON - A representatives from publisher Guideposts last week at the Direct Marketing Association's annual Nonprofit Federation conference discussed how premium fundraising could reach the next generation of donors.

Publisher Guideposts accomplishes its direct mail fundraising through donor acquisition and renewal efforts of direct mail campaigns and monthly giving clubs.

"Our goal is to enhance the awareness of the mission of Guideposts' outreach and strengthen donor commitments across all gift-giving channels," said Lisa Greco of Guideposts.

Approximately 115,000 new donors are acquired annually from mailing Guideposts' non-donor names four times a year and from one outside acquisition mailing. Donors are given the opportunity to renew 10 times per year through five house mailings and five reminders.

"We want to gain as many new donors as possible while managing to a loss per donor that will be earned back within one year," Ms. Greco said. "We also want to achieve the highest level of response while upgrading gift-giving levels."

However, both donor and non-donor universes are aging. Many are on a fixed income, which prevents them from having money left over to contribute. There is also an increase in competition in the direct mail fundraising industry.

The program, therefore, has become dependent on packages contained in pack premiums or action devices.

Guideposts tested its strategy with its annual "Christmas Bounceback Card" campaign, which consisted of a personalized mailing that encouraged donors to sign an enclosed Christmas card and return it with a gift.

Cards were distributed to nursing home residents and hospitalized veterans.

The results were surprising.

"The donors did not need the added incentive to respond to the appeal," Ms. Greco said. "The campaign can remain purely mission-driven, because donors feel good about doing something for those less fortunate and they don't require a reward to do so."

On its second testing campaign that included a new premium package, response dramatically increased.

The spring donor renewal control package included an in-pack premium of a personalized notepad with matching name and address labels, plus personalized bookmarks.

The new package lifted response rates by 84 percent.

"This was the perfect example of re-testing a premium that hadn't worked for some time," Ms. Greco said. "Another lesson learned is to trust your creative team, and it's important to be objective and subjective when choosing creative."

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