In late May, we attended the Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s (DMAW) DM 201 conference in Philadelphia. The day was filled with insights into current trends in the direct response fundraising field. For those who didn’t have the opportunity to attend the conference, here are some of our key takeaways:

Test Assumptions
As the direct mail fundraising landscape continues to evolve, nonprofits must regularly explore new testing opportunities. Testing premiums, gift strings, letter signers, teasers and design strategies provides important insight into the types of offers, and visual content, that donors are more inclined to respond to. The analyses of these tactics will help to inform future fundraising strategies with the potential to yield positive results and a high level of success.

Mid-Level Matters
As donors decline in numbers but increase in giving amounts, mid-level giving programs are more important than ever. A successful mid-level program not only builds the pipeline for major gifts, it also establishes a strong connection between a donor and an organization. Mid-level programs consistently appeal to emotions, providing donors and prospects with more insight into an organization’s mission or cause. Mid-level appeals create a powerful “head and heart” connection with donors, making ongoing stewardship and cultivation a critical component of a successful program.

Don’t Ignore Current Donors
As organizations continue to develop strategies to acquire new donors and members, the importance of retaining past donors cannot be overstated. It costs significantly less to recover a lapsed donor than it does to bring a new one on board. Often, it can be as easy as making sure donors are offered multiple opportunities throughout the year to support an organization, whether it’s through a stewardship mailing, cultivation email or asking for a second gift. Donors won’t give unless they are asked and frequently engaged with an organization’s people, mission or cause. Members, annual fund donors, mid-level donors (and prospects) must all be targets of ongoing communications plans! Organizations won’t succeed in their fundraising or mission-related goals if they allow donors who may be primed to give at a higher-level fall to the wayside.

Be Smart about Acquisition Strategies
A strategic, thoughtful acquisition program can set up an organization for success over many years. Organizations need to think strategically about exactly what they are asking prospects to give. For many organizations, a donor who makes an initial gift of $25, as opposed to $15, will most likely be more valuable in the years ahead. Similarly, donors who are brought in on a mission-based premium, as opposed to a more traditional direct mail premium, are more likely to give again. Organizations must think about the types of donors they need to grow their file, how to effectively target their lists and the importance of modeling their supporters in order to execute the right creative strategies, reach the right prospects and motivate them to give.

At Schultz & Williams, we’re always looking for new ways to take our client strategies to the next level. Many thanks to DMAW for a great day, providing us with lots of great ideas and insight to enlighten and share with our team!