Canadian Conservatives Aim for Cross-Border Cash

Other than some hockey fans during the Stanley Cup playoffs, Americans generally don't get too worked up about Canada. The Fraser Institute wants to change that.

The Vancouver, BC-based conservative think tank sent a fundraising test mailer to 9,600 subscribers of right-wing magazine National Review last month.

The mailing included a two-page letter touching on what Fraser Institute officials thought would be likely conservative triggers such as a Canadian “immigration and refugee policy that fails to adequately screen out subversives and terrorists,” and “deliberate cuts to Canadian military spending [leaving] Canada as a weak continental partner dependent on the United States.”

It was sent mainly to people in New York City and cities on the U.S.-Canadian border.

“They were those most affected on Sept. 11,” said Barry McNamar, national membership manager, The Fraser Institute. “There were huge tie-ups [on the border], and it became very clear that the economies of Canada and the U.S. are very closely linked.”

But would conservatives in these areas bite on a pitch from a Canadian policy group?

The test drew a 1.4 percent response with an average gift of about $120 — all dollar figures in this article are Canadian — compared with averages of 4 percent and $130 for The Fraser Institute's usual acquisition efforts, McNamar said.

He said he thinks response would have been higher had the campaign dropped sooner, but there was a delay in getting the list.

“Mailing at the time when security was a huge issue in the U.S., [when the United States was] going into Iraq would have been preferable to sending the piece out during the mop-up,” he said.

The package cost $2.29 Canadian per piece to create and mail, McNamar said. It raised $1.68 per piece and brought in 134 members. Overall, the test cost $22,000 and raised $16,080.

However, members' lifetime value should make The Fraser Institute's U.S. acquisitions profitable.

The average member stays with The Fraser Institute for five years. Also, 75 percent of newly acquired donors renew their memberships the second year, McNamar said, and 48 percent of renewals upgrade to a higher membership level.

Follow-up to the newly acquired U.S. donors, of course, is critical.

“The most vulnerable donor is the newly acquired donor. Most organizations lose 80 percent of them,” said Alan Facter, chairman of Los Angeles fundraising consultant Facter Direct.

“Unfortunately, most nonprofit organizations, when they acquire a new donor, solicit the hell out of them,” said Facter, whose clients include U.S. conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.

Also, he added, most nonprofit donors are acquired at a loss. “The successful organization will cultivate,” Facter said. “They will thank people without asking them for a contribution.”

The Fraser Institute sends pitch-free thank-you notes to new contributors within three days of receiving the contribution, McNamar said.

“We like to give them eight to 10 weeks between the time they last contributed and the time they're asked to contribute again,” he said.

Facter said that if he were The Fraser Institute's consultant, he would suggest lists of conservative donors as opposed to magazine subscribers.

Meanwhile, McNamar said he intends to test more acquisition mailings into the United States, but may toughen the message next time.

“I would present that we may not have been clear enough in terms of how our [Canada's] actions directly impact the United States,” he said. “We could say, 'We've got 16,000 people in Toronto alone who have failed to show up for their immigration hearing. Where are they?'”

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