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We tested reactivating newly lapsed donors in acquisition. Here’s what happened.

As acquired, so renewed.  

It’s a concept we’re all familiar with but one that’s important to remember as we look for new ways to renew donors ahead of an uncertain fundraising season 

Traditionally, 13-24-month donors are put in targeted renewal programs, while 25+ month lapsed donors are moved into acquisition. However, in this case, we wanted to test the theory of “as acquired, so renewed” at a more critical juncture of the donor journey.  

Test: Would renewal rates increase for 13-24-month donors with a package similar to how they were acquired?  

We decided to test this strategy with one of our national healthcare clients. We began by targeting the two least successful direct mail appeals for the 13-to-24-month donor segment—which just so happened to fall in April and September. 

The hypothesis we were testing was that this donor segment may renew better in a package that was similar to how they were acquired, rather than in our historical renewal package, since they had already seen a full renewal cycle and had yet to renew. 

First up, the April appeal. Our control was a typical renewal package—not a lot of color and a single insert. Our test was the more robust acquisition package, featuring a supporter card, free brochure offer and a lot of highly informative inserts.  

We put half the 13-to-24-month audience into the test acquisition package, keeping the other half in the renewal control.  

The results: 

  • Donors who received the acquisition package responded 2.75x better than the renewal package. 
  • Net revenue improved from barely breaking even to 2,454% higher than the renewal package. 

Another benefit: Because of the response rate and bonus of mailing a high-volume acquisition package, the test was a much more cost-efficient option for the organization.  

Based on this success, we took our learnings and applied them to the September mailing. Half of the 13–24-month universe received the acquisition test package, while the other half received the renewal control.  

Again, our control was a typical renewal package tested against the same more robust, colorful acquisition package with multiple inserts.  

The results:  

  • The response rate more than doubled for the acquisition package. 
  • Net revenue improved by 532.9%. 
  • Cost per dollar raised was cut in half. 

Our key takeaways 

It’s safe to say this test was a success—just look at those response rates and net revenue increases! However, we did take away a few important learnings to apply as we move forward. 

First, we tried this test in other timeslots. In some cases, the renewal control response rates were just as good (or better than) the acquisition tests, so we can’t just switch from renewal to acquisition across the board for the 13-24-month audience. But clearly, when it works, it really works. 

Second, because the April and September appeals are spaced out, it breaks up the cadence for 13-24-month donors. Instead of receiving two acquisition packages back-to-back, they receive a robust acquisition package, followed by several unique renewal packages, promoting variety in their experience.  

Based on this insight, we’re building a more robust communication strategy for this group of donors moving forward. Given the uncertainty in today’s fundraising space, this was an important reminder to continue to test and look for new ways to optimize your direct mail programs for increased response! 

Renee Falconer

Renee Falconer is an Account Director, Client Success at RKD Group, where she works with nonprofits to create robust strategies to fuel their missions and make a difference driven by her natural curiosity about data and behavior.

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