Outlook: New Donor Campaigns Rebound in '03

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The number of new donor campaigns by nonprofits rebounded slightly in 2003, showing 4 percent improvement over 2002 on analysis of more than 2,100 unique prospecting campaigns.


That observation comes from ParadyszMatera, a New York and Minneapolis list broker that monitors fundraising, catalog and publishing offers and trends using its MarketRelevance product.


"2002 saw many fundraisers consolidating or dropping campaigns, most likely relying instead on increased efforts to existing donors," said Glenn Lalich, director of research at ParadyszMatera. "The increase in 2003, which I would expect to at least hold in 2004, represents not only a growing optimism overall but also the need many nonprofits now have to re-energize their house files with fresh donor names."


Interestingly, the nature of appeals has changed little from previous years. Not so with premiums. Address labels, followed by decorative stickers, still are the most offered premiums. But the latest thing is the notepad, preferably personalized and attached to a sheet of address labels.


Lalich said notepad use is modest compared with address labels. However, it is working for charities like Covenant House, Defenders of Wildlife and the American Heart Association.


"Besides being a truly useful item, notepads also add an intriguing bit of heft to an unopened package," he said. "It's hard for a prospect to toss one of those efforts without first opening it."


Last year, ParadyszMatera tracked more Spanish-language new donor efforts than in the past. This included appeals from St. Jude's Children's Hospital and the Cystic Fibrosis and Muscular Dystrophy foundations. Most Spanish-language efforts previously were directed at religious causes.


A few celebrity-led campaigns also stood out among those tracked by Lalich's team. For instance, the Lance Armstrong Foundation's first mailer was timed to coincide with the Tour de France cycling race in midsummer. The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, while not new, was a prodigious mailer last year, testing new premiums, creative and formats.


So what do these trends indicate? Fundraisers are searching for new donors. They're also prospecting into untapped markets.


"Mailers could be working extra hard to get the attention of traditional prospects with new and unusual incentives like notepads or jewelry," Lalich said. "They could be reaching into untapped markets like the Spanish-language efforts mailed to Hispanic-Americans or appealing to baby boomers by using more contemporary creative and tying donation amounts to specific actions and results."


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