Last week, in Part I of this post, I asked this question: What do you do with people on your print and email lists who haven’t responded to your content in a while? And exactly how long is “a while?”
Today, let’s talk about communicating via print.
Knowing what people are doing with your print communications is much, much harder than knowing what they are doing with email. There’s no such thing as an open or click rate with your print appeals or newsletters. Instead, you are entirely dependent on the equivalent of the online conversion rate: Did they take any actions you requested in print? That could be returning a form or sending back the envelope you included or going to a special page on your website that you marketed exclusively through print.
As I said last week, when we are talking about email engagement, we are usually speaking in terms of months. If someone hasn’t engaged with an email in 3 months or 6 months, you would consider them unengaged. You might try some re-engagement campaigns. If they don’t engage at all for 12 months, odds are very low they will again. The sender reputation risk of emailing to inactive email addresses is higher than the potential benefit of them someday opening an email.
With print fundraising, however, we typically talk in terms of years.
Our friends at Bloomerang suggest that you give people two years in “lapsed” status where you step up the personal contact to get another gift. Then if they don’t give, you move them to “inactive” or “deep lapsed” status. This means you can keep them in the database, but that you no longer regularly send them print or email communications. This allows you to focus on the people who ARE donating and not to worry about those who aren’t.
Is two years the right timeframe to move someone from lapsed to inactive? That’s your judgment call.
Those who make the “never stop asking” argument often cite examples of donors who gave only a few relatively small gifts on a sporadic schedule, but who end up leaving a rather large bequest. It’s an interesting gamble . . .
What’s the risk of continuing to mail to people who aren’t responding? Where emailing unengaged people costs you very little financially, it can have a big impact on your sender reputation and ultimately your deliverability. The opposite is true with print: It will cost you a lot of money to send mail to all those people who aren’t reading it and responding, but it’s not like the Postal Service is going to ding you for it and stop delivering your mail.
For many nonprofits, especially smaller ones that will never reach the direct response economies of scale, it’s about affordability. It’s probably best to significantly scale back how much mail you are sending to people on your “inactive” lists and to focus your energies and resources on retaining as donors the people still in the two- or three-year lapsed window. Simply search “reactivating lapsed donors” or “donor retention” online and you’ll find tons of advice. (You will find much, much less on when to stop mailing them, with a notable exception of our friends at Bloomerang, again.)
The bottom line in both email and print: Invest in a good CRM.
Good tracking and list segmentation with customized sending schedules for different segments in different channels based on their engagement status — with automation to move people from segment to segment based on their action or inaction in time windows you set — will allow you to maintain a strong sender reputation, optimize engagement and donor retention, and save you money.