Client: SightSavers International
Campaign: Direct Supporter Recruitment
In 1997 Sight Savers International set out to expand its individual supporter base using direct marketing. By 1999, income from DM activities had increased by 64 per cent, with the number of active donors rising by 52 per cent. Committed giving through bankers orders, direct debits or deeds of covenant rose by 175 per cent.
Before the initiative, DM accounted for 41 per cent – &£3.7m – of Sight Savers’ income. By expanding DM activity, this share rose to over 50 per cent, bringing in &£6.1m worth of income. Return on investment also improved. In 1997, the cost of acquiring a new supporter was &£7.46, but by 1999, the charity was making a profit of &£5.70 per new supporter. Recruitment volumes also rose from 15,000 to 40,000. This has enabled Sight Savers to carry out over 100,000 more cataract operations.
Sight Savers’ income had stagnated at &£8m in 1996, the same level as in 1990 – a decline in real terms. The charity relies on two main sources of income: individual donations, which made up 42 per cent in 1996, and legacies. The charity set itself the ambitious target of increasing annual income by 22 per cent in 1998 and 27 per cent in 1999. To help with this the DM budget was increased to &£2m.
Activity during year one was split between recruiting new donors and developing existing ones. Cold direct mail, responsive advertising and door drops were used. A variety of creative executions was employed, with the most successful press ad – “Blinking Hell” – being developed into a press insert and door drop. Telemarketing was used to encourage cash donors to take out standing orders or direct debits.
Campaign analysis was brought in-house to speed up the process, and a donor lifetime value model was developed to drive decisions on recruitment activity. It showed that the value of a committed donor compared with a cash donor would be five times greater over a five-year period. The level of outbound telemarketing activity, through Personal Fundraising Partnership, was increased. Donor welcome, cash-to-committed gift conversion, donor upgrade and reactivation calls were all introduced.
DRTV performance was improved by changing the plea for a one-off donation to committed giving. Also, a specialist TV media buying house – Upward Brown Media – was employed to buy spots more effectively. From being one of the worst recruitment methods for initial return on investment, DRTV became the second best when viewed on a five-year basis.
Analysis also showed that face-to-face fundraising produced more committed givers with a stronger lifetime value than those obtained through DRTV, and so the budget for these channels was substantially increased. A fundraising website was introduced in 1999, which within eight months was delivering about one per cent of new donors.
New creative executions were developed for press, inserts and door drops, with Smith Bundy Carlson’s “Tweezers” beating all previous creative work in these channels. A new DRTV commercial, “The First Time”, also beat the previous ad, “Nightmare”. The efficiency of the back-end donation processing was increased, resulting in a rise of nearly 50 per cent in the money reclaimed from the Inland Revenue.
Between 1997 and 1999, income from DM increased by 64 per cent, to over &£6m. During the same period, the number of active donors increased by 52 per cent to 125,000. Significantly, the proportion of the donor base involved in committed giving, in the form of bankers orders, deeds of covenant or direct debits, rose by 175 per cent.
The expansion of committed giving is of enormous benefit to the charity, and is forecast to continue to rise to &£4m by the end of 2000 – 30 per cent of its annual income.