Quantity vs. Quality


Direct mail fundraisers have struggled for years to find the balance.

How deep in the file can I afford to mail?

More responsive segments will generate more revenue per piece mailed than it costs to mail; less responsive segments will not. Risk mailing too far past breakeven and the entire effort loses money. Mail too conservatively, and you leave dollars–and active donors–on the table.

With the lower incremental cost of email, digital fundraisers may not feel the same pressure.

But they’d do well to pay attention.

Consider the snapshot below.



In year one, this organization brought on the names of supporters for whom it already had email addresses. A respectable 3.25% of those new names made a donation.

In year two, far fewer new names came on (95% fewer!), but the percentage who donated was much higher.

In subsequent years, as efforts to build the file expanded, the likelihood of securing a first-year donation  from that new name has gone down.

Does this matter? (Especially if total revenue is going up as well?)

It may, but it’s just one indicator. Open and clickthrough rates have also declined, even though total opens and clickthroughs are up.

Thus, the more critical question: “What are you watching? And why?”

While file growth is a worthy objective, I would caution that higher file numbers may add a noise factor that can distort what’s really happening with the core supporters. Which means you'll need to look further than overall averages ... particularly if you want to meet the information needs of the people who matter most!

Do you consider what quantity vs. quality means for your file?