Anyone still harbouring doubts about the wisdom of embracing an opt-in marketing regime need look no further than the RNLI’s first campaign to target only supporters who had given the charity explicit permission, which saw a threefold increase in response rates and donation levels.
The sea-farers charity revealed its plan last October to become the first major organisation to commit to no longer target existing or potential donors by telephone, email or direct mail unless they have given their explicit consent.
At the time, it said the decision would cost it £35.6m between 2016 and 2020 – just under 20% of its £190m income in 2014.
However, in an interview with Third Sector magazine, RNLI head of funding strategy Tim Willett said its annual summer fundraising appeal saw a response rate of 32.8% – more than triple the 10.4% rate the charity achieved in 2015.
The average donation was also up, reaching £8.39, compared to the £2.94 average donation the previous year.
The RNLI sought permission from about 900,000 of the 2 million people on its supporter database in March and July, as part of a three-stage marketing campaign aimed at encouraging the charity’s most engaged supporters to opt in. More than 223,000 opted in during the first wave of the campaign in March.
Of these, the RNLI approached 66,000 people to ask if they wanted to donate to its summer appeal, which was launched in August. The appeal, to raise money for lifesaving training for the charity’s crew and lifeguards, raised £554,000.
The 2015 appeal raised £910,000 from about 310,000 people – nearly five times the number who were targeted this year.
Willett told Third Sector: “We used the Pareto principle, the 80:20 rule that says you get 80% of your income from 20% of your supporter base. We didn’t quite manage that this time, but 21% of our supporters brought in 61% of the amount we would normally have raised, so we’re spending significantly less in going to a smaller group of people who are significantly more engaged.”
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