FAQs -Ten questions to ask your organization before you begin an acquisition program

Prior to approaching a list broker, it is important for an organization to do some homework around the organizations’ tolerance for investment, ability to market their offer, and review if they have a full program in place to support the bringing on of new donors to the organization.  To that end, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Can your organization withstand the investment necessary to bring new donors to the organization?  Acquisition mail is different than your house special appeal mailings and performs most often at a net revenue loss.  Because you are culling through many prospects to get to those core responders you will need to be prepared to invest.  Organizations begin to see that investment pay off through repeated mailings to thank (acknowledge), cultivate and inform.  So although you lose money up front, over time there should be a return of this investment through subsequent mailings, contact and good donor cultivation.
  2. Does your organization have name recognition?  Do you have a unique proposition or offer that will stand out amongst the competition?  And if you have a unique proposition does the mass public perceive that right now is a critical time to jump on board?
  3. Do you have a full program in place?  Do you have an acknowledgement program, renewal program, appeal program?  Are you prepared once you get new donors to quickly get a conversion gift (2nd gift) or get them into your pipeline for additional cultivation and appeals?  If the answer is no, you should consider engaging a professional fundraising consultant to review your program and give you an objective assessment on whether acquisition fundraising is a prudent investment or if you need to put other building blocks in place first.
  4. Does your organization have the manpower to properly manage the process?  We provide list management and list brokerage services.  If you are interested in copy or creative development, data services (either merge purge or fulfillment) or general fundraising consulting we can help refer you to our industry colleagues that provide those points of service.
  5. Do you have a full understanding of the DMA list standards and practices?  Before you launch a mailing you need to know what is allowable and what isn’t.  We will require a standard list rental agreement and service bureau agreement for all first time mailers.  Each of our list orders contains all the specifications and rules of use.  In general you are not allowed to email or telemarket to a list or do anything to the list supplied without prior notification to the list manager.  You are not allowed to mention the organization in your letter to their donors.  You are not allowed to substantially change copy or the intent of the copy without alerting the listowner in advance and obtaining their specific permission.

You can find industry standard list standards at the DMAW website here – http://www.dmaw.org/list-standards/

  1. Do you have a sample mailing piece created?  If not you will need to allow for that process prior to engaging your list broker.  Our hands are tied if we don’t have a sample to show the list owners.  In that same vein we are looking for the exact copy that a donor, buyer, or subscriber will receive, so that the list owner is fully aware of what their donors/members/buyers will be receiving from you.
  2. Does your organization have a full understanding of acquisition project management and all the roles and touchpoints during the process of ordering lists?  Have you engaged the services of a merge/purge house, do you have a recognized lettershop?  Do you understand postage treatments for acquisition mailings (typically third class)?
  3. Do you have a reasonable expectation in terms of metrics for your mailing?  You should have a good idea of what type of percentage of response and average gift, as well as cost per donor.  We can certainly advise on what we are seeing in the current marketplace. We will need a budget and an expectation in terms of response rate, average gift and cost per donor so we can fully prepare an informed recommendation and so we can advise you if your expectation is in line with what we are seeing in the current marketplace.
  4. Do you have a list available for exchange or rental?  Will you allow others to use it?
  5. If you have mailed before do you have past response data that you can share?  Past merge reports so we can reference merge nets?