Segmenting: Solicitation Letters Interview

All this week I’ll be talking with Geoffrey Peters and Steven Maggio experts in writing excellent solicitation letters and direct mail.

Do you encourage “segmenting” databases? If so how would you advice doing it?

CDR Fundraising Group:
You should always segment any database except for a startup charity (until the file is fewer than 15,000 names or less than 9 months old). You should segment at least on three variables – recency, frequency and most recent gift amount.
Geoffrey Peters, President,

DaVinci Direct:
Yes, the traditional way of segmenting a file by RFM is still a must. That means segmenting the donors by how Recently and Frequently they’ve given as well as by the Monetary amount.

This technique allows you to vary copy, design, format and offer to suit each individual segment. For example, donors who have given a gift $100 or more in the past twelve months should be recognized in the letter, and perhaps invited to join a donor club. Many organizations have “mid-level” donor clubs and “major” donor societies, each with a series of tiered giving levels with different recognition benefits associated with them. Donors who give frequently, say three or more times in a year, may be invited to join a monthly donor club.

There’s an old saying that a donor isn’t a donor until they’ve made their second gift. The first gift shows interest but the second gift really indicates commitment. For this reason, we’ll create “pre-lapsing” strategies, with conversion packages that try to get the donor to make that second gift within a 12-month time frame.

LYBUNTS (donors who gave “last year but not this year” can receive a special message — and lapsed donors who haven’t given in perhaps 24 months or more can receive a customized “win-back” package that says “we miss you… we need you – and we want you back.”

Most of our appeals are branded with a distinct theme, for example Annual Fund, Member Drive, Research Appeal, etc., so that each appeal has its own look and feel – all within the umbrella of the organization’s identity standards and brand image.

These days people are taking segmentation to an even higher level by using data overlays (wealth ratings, age, home ownership, etc.) and predictive models to identify new segments and tailor special offers and messaging to them.

Someone who is over 50 and has given to your organization for eight or ten consecutive years would be a prime candidate for a planned giving offer. People who give through multiple channels – mail, web, special events – can be treated differently.

The goal in every case is to talk to the donor as if you know them, and are cognizant of their interests and giving preferences.
Steven J. Maggio, President,

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