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The Loyalty Letter

E-news that helps you keep donors connected (and giving)
to your cause.

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February 2010
Published by Lisa Sargent


A series of super snowstorms in the eastern U.S. has pushed an exclusive interview scheduled for this issue to next month.

But in a way it's good news. Because if you'd like, you can spread the word to your colleagues: in March, The Loyalty Letter chats with monthly giving maven Jo Sullivan.

Jo's work is well worth knowing. While with the ASPCA she helped increase revenues more than five hundred percent -- due in large part to a monthly giving program that's among the best in the U.S. Stay tuned!

And for you email fundraisers, Article Two features a case study just as sweet (and sure to challenge your notions of email appending).


Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

Rethinking Your Nonprofit’s Gift String: New and Old Ways to Ask for Money

Stuck in a formulaic rut? Know this: little changes to your nonprofit’s gift string can make a big difference to your bottom line. Here, a few ways to break free...

Call it a gift string, ask string, ask array - or simply the series of suggested donations on your donation response form.

But however you describe your gift string, how much you ask for is just as important as how you ask. Too much can be off-putting, too little drives your donations downward.

This article looks at two tried-and-true gift string equations, along with a few examples of what can happen when you think outside the tick box.

Let's begin with the basics: gift string formulas.

When deciding on amounts, most nonprofits and nonprofit agencies apply one of two formulas:

1. Percentage of Prior Year Gift: when you have a giving history for your donors, a typical formula to apply to your gift string will be 1X, 1.25X, 1.5X (or 2X) the prior year's donation.

So if I gave $40 last year, this year my gift string might be: $40, $60 and $80.

2. Fixed Amount Increase: this simply involves adding a fixed amount to the prior year's gift. So, gift+10, gift+20, etc. Using the same forty dollar gift, this yields: $40, $50 and $60.

Note: If you don't have a giving history, you'll need to pre-select fixed amounts.

And to prevent a donor disconnect, sound advice from Mal Warwick's Newsletter: "any gift string mentioned in your letter should be consistent with the reply. For instance, if you list a string of '$25, $35, $50, $100, or more' in your letter copy, try to use the same string on the response form."

But, donors being real people and all, formulas don't tell the whole tale, as World Wildlife Fund recently realized...

Midway through "Anatomy of a Control" in the December issue of Inside Direct Mail (print edition) sits a brilliant example of donor-centered thinking by World Wildlife Fund.

Knowing many of its donors were struggling through this tough economy, WWF decided to challenge the ever-popular 1/1.25/1.5 formula described above.

It began testing lower ask amounts, specifically .75, 1, 1.25, and 1.5 the prior year's gift.

As you might predict, the average gift did drop. But, according to Inside Direct Mail, "response has increased and overall revenue has increased" [my emphasis added]. In fact the article notes that WWF has since retested the string with the same results.

Plus, two more breakthrough gift string strategies. Both found on SOFII:

1. You can ask for more ... a lot more ... nearly four hundred thousand dollars more. Greenpeace did, to the tune of two hundred fifty thousand British pounds (two hundred thousand of which it received in a single gift.) Greenpeace's Big Ask, on SOFII.

2. You can ask for nothing at all, and let the donor decide instead. The results may, well, surprise you: The Surprise Us! case study, on SOFII.

So, now that you have the skinny on gift strings, one question remains: how will you rethink yours?

Let me know how you do.

How Shriners Hospitals for Children Found Fundraising Success Online, With Email Appends

When 9 in 10 addresses on your list are email appends, what can you expect from your web-based fundraising? Plenty: discover the one-two strategy that helped Shriners increase online holiday donations by nearly seventy percent.

In the fall of 2009, with a house email list of 70,000 names, Shriners Hospitals for Children set out to send a series of holiday messages that would increase both their email open rate and online donations.

There was just one hitch: ninety percent of the addresses on the email list had been appended.

For the uninitiated, the Direct Marketing Association defines email appending as follows:

E-mail address appending is the process of adding a consumer's [donor's] e-mail address to that consumer's [donor's] record. The e-mail address is obtained by matching those records from the marketer's database against a third-party database to produce a corresponding e-mail address.

The upside is that for nonprofits looking to build their email address list, email appends get the job done quickly. How quickly?

Note: This case study takes about ten minutes to read. Includes 2 creative samples.

Click here to go directly to the report with included samples.

P.S. Subscribing to The Loyalty Letter is easy: scroll up for handy sign-up form at the top of this page.   

And lastly, if ever you have a question on donor communications, send it along to The Loyalty Letter. All you have to do is:


Or call: +001 (860) 881-7009.

On Skype: lisa.sargent96.

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Very unique. First invented.
Mutual agreement.

It's tautology, and it is the enemy. Want your next appeal to sing? Learn from a master,
in less than 75 pages:

George Smith’s Tiny essentials of writing for fundraising,
from White Lion Press.


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