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Case Study: Habitat tests new mailers

Client: Habitat for Humanity
Agency: THD, Doner Direct
To reengage consumers at the organization’s busiest time of year

Consumers associate the hands-on, outdoor work of Habitat for Humanity volunteers, who build homes for the underprivileged, with warm weather. Based on that thinking, the nonprofit organization conducted one of its major gift-solicitation campaigns in May, when it reached consumers with an integrated effort to boost donations.

STRATEGY: Habitat for Humanity solicited donations through an integrated mix of media, including direct mail and telemarketing, in its May 2010 fundraising campaign. The group tied the campaign to the warm spring weather.

“It is a staple mailing called the ‘Habitat Challenge.’ One reason we do this is because May is the optimal time of the year because the weather is great in most places in the world,” says Trish Williams, director of donor development at Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes on five continents, as well as the Asia Pacific region. “This is our business-building season and we want to be able to do as much as we can before the weather breaks and it becomes too cold or rainy. People connect with this… and our constituents respond very well.”

Habitat for Humanity used a multichannel approach in the campaign, working with agencies THD and Doner Direct to reach out to consumers via direct mail and telemarketing. However, the organization took its telephone outreach further, dividing consumers into separate groups who are responsive to live phone calls and those who are not. Less responsive consumers received a pre-recorded phone call, followed a few days later by a direct mail piece, says Williams.

“That is near the end of our fiscal year, and before it ends, we have to give consumers as many giving options as we can, because not everyone will give in the same way,” she says. “We feel we should invest that energy towards letting donors make their own choices.”

RESULTS: Habitat for Humanity aimed to increase responses, and boost donations, from the direct mail portion of the campaign by testing self-adhesive address labels. When the nonprofit used the labels, its direct mail pieces saw 26% more individual gifts, 70% more revenue and 34% increased average gift across donor groups, in comparison to the normal versions.

However, Habitat for Humanity experienced the opposite effectwhen it changed the direct mail packaging entirely. The nonprofit saw decreases in both revenue and response when it altered the entire face of the direct mail package, says Williams.

“We also found that using an additional ask amount in the ‘ask array’ helped to reactivate lower-level donors, but decreased the average gift,” she says.

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