Is there a silver bullet for acquisition?

While most organizations are still making direct mail work in acquisition, some are mixing it up with online and/or other channels.

But almost all non-profits are finding no shortcuts — no silver bullets — for a struggling acquisition program.

What they are finding is that some hard work and careful analysis pays off in improved results.

“What have you done for me lately?”

For new donor acquisition to work, it requires analysis — sometimes a lot of analysis — with an eye on trends and patterns. You must look at the channel performance, as well as the audience performance. You must carefully inspect the audience level in several different ways in order to identify the patterns. Scrutinizing the audience level will reveal patterns that can be continued, and more important, patterns that need to be turned around.

Acquisition is all about “what have you done for me lately?” So while looking back at the prior year’s performance is nice and all, what really helps improve your results is looking at your most recent campaign(s). The most recent trending will give you the best insight into what’s working and what’s not.

Think of acquisition as if it were your car. If you regularly have the oil changed, rotate the tires, have the tune-ups and brake service done as recommended, then your car will run much better.

But it you don’t do the recommended maintenance, problems begin to develop and grow exponentially over time. Soon, you’ll have no choice but to take it to a mechanic.

It’s highly likely that the mechanic will charge you serious money in order to fix the problems that have been ongoing and increasing in severity and frequency. In fact, the costs could be so high that you’ll begin to wonder: Should I just get a new car?

The easiest and cheapest solution all along would’ve been to pay for maintenance and service for your car to avoid the unnecessary, preventive and expensive damage.

The same can be said of acquisition.

3 steps to a better-running acquisition program

Consider this 3-step approach:

  1. Review everything regularly, recalibrate as necessary, and take the time to really do a review of the channels, the audience and the message. Be sure that each one is aligned correctly, and that there is synergy between the channels and the messaging.
  1. Capitalize on the channels that are working well together (we all know that a new donor who receives a direct mail piece and gives online is going to be valuable), and look at the short-term (campaign level) results in addition to the long-term (higher value donors) without sacrificing one for the other.
  1. Set realistic expectations! Turning around a new donor acquisition will take time, especially if direct mail is your main acquisition channel. Unfortunately, you cannot go without acquisition (or with poor execution of it) and then try to make it all up in a year. It just doesn’t happen like that.

If your organization has fallen behind on acquiring new donors and you’re under pressure to bring in a lot of new donors this coming year, don’t despair. Yes, you may have serious ground to make up, but approach it realistically — and understand that it will likely take more than 12 months.

The reality remains that it took your organization awhile to get into the situation you are in. Unfortunately, it will take awhile to get out of it. But the good news is — with the right strategic partner, your organization can and will acquire additional new donors year-over-year.

You’ll begin to acquire donors who will not only be there in the short term, you’ll also attract the most valuable donors: those who will help your organization for years to come.