A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you what kind of communications I received from twenty different national nonprofits after giving year-end gifts in the last days of 2011. The results were very mixed, with about a 1/3 of the organizations doing what I would consider good online donor retention, 1/3 doing it inconsistently, and 1/3 doing basically nothing.
One organization in that “nothing” category was the American Heart Association — and now we know why.
With her permission, I am reprinting the email I received from Maureen Ryan on Tuesday.
A colleague of mine sent me your blog post called No Wonder Retention of Online Donors is So Bad from August 21, 2012. I want to thank you for including the American Heart Association in your research, although the results were not close to what we’d have liked. It did make me take notice, though!
Our online strategy, especially with our year-end donors, includes monthly mission messaging following their gift and the year-round plan includes 2-3 online solicitations – usually during Heart Month (Feb.), Stroke Month (May) and calendar Year-End (Nov – Jan, 5 part series including video, segmented and personalized). At the $500+ level, every donor should receive a personal phone call from a local board member or executive. Additionally, new donors should be included in direct mail acquisition.
That’s not what happened to you as a donor, which caused me some alarm. But here’s why I’m thankful you mentioned the AHA in your blog – I researched how our mailing lists were pulled together and found that due to an error in a query, the year-end donors were not being pulled into our monthly cultivation email lists. This error represents a very big missed opportunity – and I am so glad we now know where the problem lies. I’m not sure we’d have discovered it any other way.
We always want to take the opportunity to not only say thank you to our donors, but also to show them the many ways that the American Heart Association helps donors and their families right in their own community. Now we can do a better job doing just that…
Maureen Ryan, MBA
Marketing Analyst, Customer Strategies
American Heart Association, National Center
Office of Technology and Customer Strategies
This is a wonderful response in so many ways . . .
- Rather than being defensive or making excuses, Maureen actually thanks me for calling out the American Heart Association. This alone is a huge lesson for all of us.
- She explains what should have happened, and had that actually happened, AHA would have been in the top third of groups with a good online donor retention strategy.
- She explains how she researched the situation and uncovered a database query problem that could have remained hidden, and (I presume) fixed it. This is another huge lesson for all of us — you need the right technology, you need to know how to use it, and you need to test it and always be on the lookout for things that could be going wrong. (Hint: Join NTEN if you aren’t already a member.)
Thank you Maureen and AHA for your awesome reply! I’m looking forward to those monthly email updates!