What Does New Donor Acquisition Look Like in Transformational Giving? A Case Study from Buzzard’s Bay

Jon Howard from the Butterfly Effect reported recently on a new donor acquisition campaign from New Bedford, Mass that I think nicely presents some of the elements of what such should look like in a Transformational Giving framework.

Captain Ahab set out from New Bedford, Massachusetts, with just one idea: putting his harpoon in the ultimate big fish, Moby Dick. His all or nothing approach didn’t work out so well for anyone but the whale.

The Coalition for Buzzards Bay got much better results by spreading nets in many different waters when they set out on their own New Bedford-based quest: to grow membership by more than 50 percent over  two years. The Coalition started in 2009 with 5,200 members. A generous donor offered them $500,000 if they could add 3,000 new members before December 31, 2010.

(Relevant side note: Why don’t more foundations do this? Rather than going with a matching grant approach, why not tie the grant to a new member acquisition goal instead? The benefits to such an approach are evident in this Buzzards Bay case study as well.)

Howard notes that given the small size of the Coalition and the Buzzards Bay watershed, a traditional direct mail acquisition campaign just wasn’t an option:

Even if it somehow managed to mail to every one of the approximately 115,000 households in the Buzzards Bay watershed, the Coalition would have spent a fortune. And at standard response rates of well under one percent for new member acquisition by mail, they would still have fallen far short of the goal.

You’ll want to read the rest of Jon’s post to learn the volunteer-driven strategies the Coalition employed to recruit 3,600 new members (defined mutually by the challenge-making donor and the organization as $10 for single members and $30 for households).

Single gift memberships of $10 may seem like more trouble than they’re worth, but as Jon notes, “Consider the value of having 25 percent of the population of a coastal town like Marion, Mass., as members when the Coalition has business with local government.”

Missionaries and other fundraisers ought to consider the value of seeking a large “share of church” when they speak–i.e., creating a low participation threshold offer that attracts/enables 25% or more of congregation members to give when the missionary speaks–rather than going after large single gifts and/or monthly shares. In the long run, having more people in a given church caring about–and talking about and participating in–what you’re doing will likely yield greater benefits for you (and them!) than an unwavering commitment to a fundraising strategy of maximizing monthly shares.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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