M.S. Association Woos Lapsed Mail Donors With Calls

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As the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America learned in a recent campaign, sometimes it pays to telemarket to your mailing list and to mail your telemarketing list.

When MSAA began conducting its mail campaigns in-house in 2003, it kept its mailing and telemarketing lists separate and built its overall response and average donation rates by targeting loyal donors. However, the group wanted to improve performance in less-responsive segments of the mailing list.

MSAA hired Tele-Response Center, Philadelphia, last year to manage a telemarketing and direct mail campaign to reactivate lapsed donors. In spring 2004, the charity began work on a campaign to target donors who gave money in 2003 but not in 2004.

"What was it that they didn't respond to in the mail campaign this year?" said Neal Zoren, MSAA director of direct marketing.

Tele-Response Center agents working for MSAA called lapsed donors and asked for donation pledges. The association also followed up with letters to lapsed donors following the calls.

The campaign exceeded its goal of breaking even on costs, generating a five-figure return for MSAA, Zoren said. The association reactivated 2,000 lapsed donors as a result of the telemarketing.

"They're back in the fold," he said. "We can count them as active donors."

The association also tested sending mail to parts of its telemarketing list that wished to receive no further phone solicitations, Zoren said, an effort that generated an unusually high response.

MSAA is starting more such fundraising efforts and incorporating the lessons from last year's tests, he said. One key to the campaign was the segmentation strategy used to determine which parts of the list of lapsed donors were most likely to be reactivated.

Tele-Response Center developed a segmentation scheme based on lapsed donors' last gift date and last gift amount, using those figures to score the list and identify the prospects most likely to return, said Kirk Beyer, senior vice president of client services at Tele-Response Center. It then separated the list into those with a high likelihood of reactivating, those on the "bubble" and those unlikely to donate again who likely would cost more money to pursue than they would donate.

One effective tactic was for phone agents to tell prospective donors how many people in their local area had been helped by MSAA. Zoren had used this selling point in his mail campaign and decided to try it with the telemarketing.

"That localizes the appeal," Beyer said. "When you bring it down to the state level, it makes a difference."

Raising awareness about multiple sclerosis is as important a job as raising money, Zoren said. Past donors feel an affinity to the cause, and the group wants to build on that affinity to develop long-term relationships with donors.

"Our job isn't to strong-arm people or twist their arms," he said. "Our job is to let people know that there are 400,000 people in America with multiple sclerosis."

Tele-Response Center previously worked for MSAA but lost its contract in 1999 when the charity reorganized its fundraising and gave all its telemarketing to one vendor. However, MSAA and Tele-Response Center maintained their friendly relationship and kept sharing ideas, Beyer said.

MSAA requested that Tele-Response Center use its call center in Weston, WV, with 200 agents and 108 workstations, on the campaign. A client services manager in that center had been diagnosed recently with multiple sclerosis and had received help from MSAA's support network.

Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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