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Calendar Year-End

Calendar Year-End Prep: The 4 C’s of Direct Mail Appeals

You may be familiar with the 4 P’s of Marketing (or in some cases, the 7 P’s of Marketing), but have you heard of the 4 C’s of Direct Mail Appeals? In this day in age, acronyms and slogans get created and tossed around everywhere, so let’s break down what BCG Connect’s 4 C’s of direct mail appeals are. The 4 C’s are used to describe what your calendar year-end direct mail appeal (and every other appeal for that matter) should aim to be, which is: Creative, Clear, Compelling, and Concise.

Calendar year-end fundraising mail will be flocking mailboxes all over the world. From year-end appeals, to renewal appeals, to acquisition mailings, it’s critical to have your appeal stand out in that crowded mailbox.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the 4 C’s of direct mail appeals to improve the effectiveness of your calendar year-end appeal:

CREATIVE: What makes your organization unique? Why should someone donate to your organization over a different organization? Having creative elements makes your message appealing and draws the recipient in. Whether it is a standard letter or a self-mailer, it’s key to have creative elements to it. What defines the creative elements that are in the appeal? Well, you should first identify and focus on your target audience(s) and know as much as possible about those people – this helps with the creative process of developing a piece that connects, communicates, and engages each segment.

CLEAR: It’s important to be clear. That’s a very general statement, so being “clear” has been broken down into three categories:

  • Clear with whom you are talking to: is your direct mail appeal segmented? Do you have variable data? Have you personalized your messaging based on who you are talking to? Being clear with whom you are talking to is so important in your direct mail appeal because you need to connect with each recipient to inspire action.
  • Clear with what you are saying: make sure every sentence that is on your direct mail appeal brings value to the piece. If you took a sentence out, would the piece still make sense? Be clear with what you are saying so the recipient understands what you are telling him/her.
  • Clear with what you want the recipient to do: a call-to-action needs to be prominent, bold, and easy to understand. Having multiple call-to-actions dilutes the main, most important goal of the piece, which should be what the call-to-action is: what do you want the recipient to do when they are done reading the piece? Are you wondering if your call-to-action is distinguishable? Take a quick glance at your appeal – if the call-to-action jumps out at you, great! If it’s difficult to figure out what you’re supposed to do, you might want to go back and review it to make sure the recipient knows what action he/she should take after reading it. 

COMPELLING: What is your story? How do you tell your story about the impact that gifts make? How do you deliver that story? Storytelling is vital to developing a compelling appeal. To tell your story, it helps to know what your donors want and why they want it. It also helps to take a step back and think from your donors’ point-of-view. Perhaps, you could think, “If I were Donor A, what would I want to read on a direct mail piece? If I were Donor B, would I want to read the same thing as Donor A?” You must make your recipient believe your story and feel as though they are an influential character in that story so they are motivated to do whatever your call-to-action is.

CONCISE: Sometimes, to get a point across, people feel as though they need to explain every minute detail. However, less can be more for a direct mail piece. A great way of determining if you are being concise is to review your copy and figure out if every sentence is important to support the point you are trying to get across, or if it’s fluff that you can remove. Get straight to the point when it is appropriate and include support when it is necessary.

Calendar year-end is an ample opportunity to reach out to your donor base with a creative, clear, compelling, and concise appeal that stands out in a crowded mailbox. How do you get an appeal to stand out? BCG Connect’s creative group can handle all of that for you!

BCG Connect has been successful in partnering with our clients to create a personalized, custom approach to their direct marketing programs, targeting the right people, with an effective message, to reach their prospective and current donors. Connect with us to learn how we can help you identify, acquire, and retain your donors!

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Strategic Plan

Your Strategic Annual Giving Plan: 3 Tips to Success

There are many intricacies and complexities when it comes to annual giving. Due to the strategic elements that go into annual giving, success often begins with having an organized annual giving plan. An annual giving plan helps compile short- and long-term goals, schedule yearly initiatives, allocate time effectively and efficiently, adhere to a budget, and ultimately alleviate some of the complexities that can arise.

You might be thinking, “I have all of those elements – how can I optimize my annual giving plan?”

Here are 3 tips and tricks to enhance your strategic annual giving plan:

  1. MAKE SURE YOU DRAFT A SCHEDULE: This is one of the most important aspects of an annual giving plan. It helps you lay out what the initiative is, who will be targeted, what the goal is, and the timeframe of when the initiative will be executed. This not only helps with staying on track throughout the year, but it also helps with the analysis following the campaign. Sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to get off track from an original plan. Having a draft schedule in place is a central resource for your team to refer back to so you can make sure that all initiatives are executed to reach your goals.
  2. ANALYZE THE PREVIOUS FISCAL YEAR’S SUCCESS AND AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: When you look back on your campaigns and initiatives, you can analyze what worked best and what might need improvement. It’s OK if a campaign didn’t work exactly as planned, as long as you understand why it didn’t work and adjust accordingly. Some questions to help guide you with your analysis are
    • Did we have consistent branding across the organization? Was it consistent across different platforms? Was the messaging clear?
    • Did we use variable data to personalize the ask? How did we segment this? Did we segment the data properly to target the right people with the proper message?
    • What channels did we use to have an integrated campaign – direct mail, email, social media, and a telephone push? Did we leverage video through these channels? What else did we do?
    • Did we incorporate a challenge, giving day, or event? How did we promote it prior to the day and what was the follow up after?
    • Do we have the most updated data for our community, supporters, patients, alumni, family, and/or friends that we target?
    • How did we thank our donors? Did we do a second ask at the same time? Do the donors feel appreciated?
  3. ALLOCATE YOUR TIME WISELY: As the saying goes, “[There is] so much to do and so little time.” If you have ever thought or said this, you are not alone. The good news is that there are external resources that can help you and your team manage all of the moving parts, so you can focus on other initiatives at the same time. BCG Connect partners with clients to act as an extension of their team with a focus on helping clients identify, acquire, and retain their donors. Connect with us to learn more about how we can be a strategic resource for your team.

An annual giving plan can bring so much value to your organization. If you’re thinking, “Well, my year has already started so I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to develop a plan,” that’s not the case! You can develop an annual giving plan at any time because a late plan is better than no plan.

If you need a creative direct marketing partner who knows best practices in the education, healthcare, and nonprofit markets, BCG Connect is your strategic resource. For more than a decade, BCG Connect has been successful in partnering with our clients to create a personalized, custom approach to their marketing and fundraising initiatives, targeting the right people, with an effective message to reach their prospective and current donors. Connect with us to learn more!

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MCPHS Leadership Giving Piece

Case Study Download: MCPHS University’s Leadership Giving Program

Within an annual giving plan, there are different initiatives targeted at different segments to personalize asks and connect with donors more effectively. One segment that organizations typically target is leadership donors. Leadership giving communication is an opportunity for organizations to speak to donors that have invested at a higher level in a different way than non-donors or other donors.

“BCG provides knowledgeable, fundraising-savvy, and most importantly highly responsive team of professionals with which to work throughout the course of planning, developing, and executing a project. From initial ideation of project concept to the development of print materials and their distribution to constituents, BCG has earned our trust as a worthy collaborator.”

– Lawrence Townley, MS, Executive Director of Development Operations, University Advancement

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, MCPHS University, had a leadership giving initiative to connect with leadership donors and communicate the importance of donor contributions.

BCG Connect collaborated with MCPHS University on this initiative that produced successful results for this campaign. What did that collaboration entail? Learn more about the creative ideas, campaign steps and results in the following case study.

Personalization in your direct mail pieces can take your campaign to the next level. What is important to Donor A? What is important to Prospect B? What about Donor C, D, E? Segmenting your donor base and personalizing asks and messaging based on certain factors can increase your chances of their donation. You always want to target the right people with the right message at the right time.

Targeting leadership donors and implementing a leadership giving campaign can be a strategic element of your annual giving campaign. For more information on leadership giving or to request leadership giving samples, let’s connect!

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BB&N Annual Fund Direct Marketing Plan

Case Study Download: BB&N Optimizes Their Annual Fund Direct Marketing Plan

How important is an annual fund direct marketing plan? Extremely! Annual fund marketing plans help with budgeting, forecasting, consistent outreach, benchmarking for the next year, and overall strategic preparation for fundraising efforts. By having a fully integrated marketing plan that has a consistent look, theme, and message to it, constituents can expect an update or outreach from your organization throughout the year. This can lead to more engagement, more loyalty, and more donors.

Buckingham Browne & Nichols (BB&N) partnered with BCG CONNECT for their FY17 annual fund direct marketing campaign. Through collaboration, BCG CONNECT and BB&N discussed a theme, goals, and timeline for the year for their annual direct marketing initiatives.

 “Reflecting back on FY17, BCG CONNECT helped us create a fully integrated marketing look throughout our appeals and stewardship pieces. It has been a wonderful partnership.”

-Audrey Wallace, Associate Director of The BB&N Fund

BB&N knew the importance of consistently reaching out to and engaging with donors. Download this case study to view a sample of what was sent out each month and some results of their campaign.

Consistency is key to branding. Here are three benefits to having fully integrated, consistent branding for your appeals:

  1. It gives your organization a personality and identity that constituents can relate to.
  2. It effectively delivers and reinforces key messaging.
  3. It drives donor loyalty and brand recognition.

BCG CONNECT works with clients on their annual direct marketing plans to ensure constituents are consistently being reached throughout the year. For more information on how BCG CONNECT can help your annual fund direct marketing campaign, connect with us!

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Annual Funds Deserve Annual Plans

Annual Funds Deserve Annual Plans – Is Yours Ready for FY’18?

The long and winding road to annual giving success starts with developing an annual fund plan. Annual giving is complex and having a roadmap ahead of time allows you to prepare for the possible speed bumps and detours. Your road to annual giving success begins today for the next fiscal year – it’s time to start planning!

A strong annual fund campaign requires extensive and comprehensive efforts that organizations need to plan well in advance. By doing this, annual fund objectives are clear, concise, and compelling as well as more apt to be strategically aligned throughout the fiscal year. However, according to Annual Giving Network’s 2016 Report, 67% said that they do not typically have a plan in place prior to the start of a new fiscal year.

Take a step back for a moment and think, “Did my annual fund have a documented, thought-out plan for FY’17?”

If your answer is, “Yes, it did!” – wonderful! How are you going to improve it for FY’18? It’s imperative to use as much data as you have gathered to determine what worked, what didn’t work, and how the plan can be improved. Some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Did I have a campaign across multiple channels (direct mail, email appeals, a coordinated social media campaign, and a telephone push)?
  • Did I segment the data to target the right people with the right message?
  • Did I thank donors for their previous donation and ask for another small gift at the same time?
  • Could I have incorporated 2 annual giving days instead of 1?
  • Should I have implemented a challenge day?
  • Could I have leveraged any yearly events to push annual giving (i.e. Pi Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, the Organization’s Founding Year)?
  • Did I tell donors how their donation impacted the organization?

There is always room for improvement by implementing innovative and creative ideas to your program.

If your answer is, “No, my annual fund didn’t have a strategic plan,” then you’re in luck – there is always time to put a plan in place. You might be thinking, “Where do I start? When do I start? What do I include in this plan?” Before summer, you should ideally have your approved plan in place ready to be executed for FY’18. This would put you at the perfect spot to be organized for the year and ready to strategically get donations in. Here are some guiding questions to fuel your annual giving campaign for your road trip to success:

  1. What is the theme of your annual fund? – by having a thought-out, annual theme, the annual fund can have a more succinct, consistent message upon multiple touchpoints.
  2. Do your social media pushes have consistent branding with your annual fund campaign? – as more campaigns implement social media, it’s crucial to have consistent branding across channels to connect all of the pieces for donors.
  3. Are there any yearly events that you want to include in your annual fund campaign? – if you’re focused on a certain theme for the year, you might want to consider incorporating certain events/holidays into your campaign. For example, if the founding year for your institution was 1718, you might want to implement a Giving Day on January 7, 2018 (1/7/18). If you have a theme of focusing on different departments throughout the year, you might want to focus on athletics in March and hold a March Madness bracket challenge. If you’re focusing on raising funds for a new math center, you might want to hold a giving day on Pi Day, March 14th (3.14).
  4. How will you segment your data? – knowing who your donors are helps with segmenting data as you want to ensure you are targeting the right people with the right message at the right time. Personalizing asks based on specific donor interests increases your chances of their donation.
  5. Did you thank your donors? – donor retention is a major factor of your annual fund. Maintain your relationships by thanking your donors and let them know how their gift impacted the organization! When they feel appreciated, they are more inclined to continue contributing to the fund in the future.
  6. How did the campaign do and how are you going to improve it next year? – during your current campaign, you should start thinking about next year’s campaign. Ask yourself questions like, “Should we do this strategy next year? Which approach was most successful? Which approach did not perform as we had hoped? Is there anything going on in the environment that might have impacted positive or negative results for our campaign?” By having improvement at the forefront of your mind, annual fund campaigns are more likely to succeed even more.

An annual fund campaign needs to be kept vibrant, updated, and innovative. These efforts need to be revisited and monitored constantly to ensure the annual fund is meeting or exceeding expectations. In order for aligned initiatives to be effective, goals need to be set and the prior year’s campaign needs to be evaluated at the completion of the campaign. When evaluating the campaign, it’s important to take into consideration the dollars given, participation rates, average gifts, and cost-per-dollar-raised. This will aid in establishing a benchmark that will be beneficial in setting realistic goals.

What do you think would happen if donors heard from you consistently the first year throughout the year and only one time the year after that because an annual plan wasn’t implemented? The purpose of an effective annual fund plan is to establish consistent giving habits in your donors. If they feel as though you only reach out when there is a crisis or when there is a sudden need, they won’t feel the emotional connection as they would if they had received consistent outreach explaining how they can make an impact. Retaining donors is a key contributing factor to developing and executing an annual fund plan.

As a proud partner with our clients, BCG Connect has worked strategically with numerous organizations to develop and improve their annual fund marketing campaigns. Some of the most successful campaigns were planned well in advance of the start of the fiscal year. If your goal is to work with a partner that can help develop a strategic, impactful annual fund marketing program, connect with us to learn how BCG Connect can help you!

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8 Fundraising Trends

8 Trends to Spring Your Annual Fund Marketing Forward

There’s something intricate about annual fund marketing – especially if you want to go beyond the basics of annual giving and create actionable strategies that will help you expand your program for long-term success.

It’s our goal to leverage our industry knowledge when working with clients to provide them with optimal marketing solutions for their fundraising program.

With spring around the corner, it’s time to start comprehensively assessing your annual giving program and determining how to take your program to the next level – how do you relate to these 8 trends?

  1. Implement a Strong Multi-Year and Annual Plan. Developing and maintaining a strong annual fund plan provides the opportunity to comprehensively assess your annual giving program, articulate short and long term objectives, and align all objectives with the plan appropriately. This advanced planning offers the opportunity to revisit initiatives regularly and stay up to speed with expectations. As a key step to long term success, effective annual fund planning is built from strategic development, partnerships, and long-term connections with donors.
  2. Stewardship, Stewardship, Stewardship. Annual giving professionals always need to keep at the front of their minds that stewardship is a key element of annual giving. Great stewardship is crucial to high retention and should be encouraged at all levels of the donor pyramid, including thank you notes all the way to donor impact stories in different types of publications.
  3. Have You Implemented #SocialMedia Into Your Campaign? If you haven’t increased your social media presence yet, now is the time to do so. Having a campaign that shows consistent branding, from the direct marketing all the way to social media, increases the engagement of the potential donors. Donors tend to feel more involved and having numerous touchpoints is important to donor relations.
  4. Mobile is King. At the CASE D1 conference, it was stated that 14% of all online donations are made by a mobile device. It is vital that your donation page, along with any corresponding emails, attachments, or graphics on social media, are mobile enabled. Similar to the importance of mobile with the annual fund, convenience is a significant factor in getting donations through the door.
  5. Big Data and Personalized Analytics. Big data and predictive analytics are evolving annual fund giving. By analyzing donor engagement and giving over their time with the organization/institution, engagement with them improves significantly. When you know about what they are passionate about in association with the organization/institution, you can tailor a personalized approach to them that could increase the chances of a donation.
  6. Storytelling is Not Just for Children. Tapping into your donor’s emotions can engage them, connect with them, really show them exactly what you want them to see and how you want them to feel. By providing better stories, you can raise more money because people are more dedicated and proud to support the fund. Storytelling can be incorporated in appeals, giving days, challenges, stewardship, among others. Take a step back and really tell the donors why their donation is impactful, who it has helped, and why they truly make a difference no matter the amount they donated.
  7. “What Was My Impact?” – Respond to Your Donors. It’s important donors know that their donation goes to a larger cause – that it is truly impacting something. Impact reports, case studies, stories, statistics are all vital elements to provide to your potential donors to show how exactly their donation helped. Did it help fund a new building? Did it provide more resources to the organization/institution? Tell them! They want to know their impact and by providing tangible information of what their donation helped, they will be more inclined to donate again.
  8. Change is Constant. Successful annual giving programs effectively adopt the changes that will work, while still maximizing the old tools that continue to work. The saying typically goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” However, it is rather a delicate balance between using the old with the new. Learning how to adapt the new with the old can improve the likeliness of a successful annual giving program. For example, doing a direct mail piece highlighting a giving day can be complemented with a social media campaign incorporating the branding of the Giving Day.

These are just a few of the annual fund trends that should be on the forefront of your mind when developing your annual fund program. Do you need any help incorporating any of them into your campaign? We’d love to connect with you to share how we can help strengthen your campaign!

P.S. Attending the CASE District II conference in Baltimore? Let us know if you will be attending – we would love the opportunity to connect with you there!

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Fundraising Possibility is in the Air

Possibility Is In The Air

The weather is warmer than ever, it’s light out earlier, and before we know it, the first day of spring will be here. Everything feels fresh and new once the weather is warm enough to not wear a coat out of the house in the morning. Don’t you agree? It feels like possibility is in the air.

And with possibility comes the opportunity for fundraising. While this can be a challenging appeal season, it’s also an opportunity to harness that feeling of possibility and be more creative with a campaign in order to bring in the essential funds that support our communities.

Two months ago, in January, I had the pleasure of speaking at the CASE District 1 Conference, introducing keynote speaker Dr. Talithia Williams of Harvey Mudd College. I told the crowd of more than 600 about an appeal success story of one of BCG Connect’s educational partners, Regis College, a university in the Boston area. This campaign was creative, ambitious, and very successful.

Every time I tell this story it tugs on my heart. And since the best fundraising campaigns reach both your head and heart, this is an all-star.

Below is an excerpt of the speech:

A few years ago, Regis launched a campaign to fund the full cost of iPads for all current undergraduate and graduate students. They would be given new iPads upon entering school and when they graduated they would take the iPads along with them on their next adventures.

As we all know, the cost of technology can be a serious hurdle for many young people, and Regis wanted to ensure that all of their students had equal access to this technology, no matter their economic status.

BCG Connect worked with Regis on this campaign to create personalized, targeted, direct mail marketing that honed in on the message of the need for universal and upgraded technology for all students on campus and how donors could make an impact on that need with their donations. Additionally, the campaign focused on prospects under the $1,000 level in order to try to engage that alumni group further.

Approximately 2,500 past and prospective donors were solicited as a part of this campaign.

The appeals had designs and imagery based on the graduation decade of the potential donor and the story was told through an emphasis on the advancements in technology since the donor’s graduation decade.

If you graduated in the 1980’s, you received this appeal – you can see how the photo from is both similar and different from that of the one from with the current Regis students and the iPads:

Regis Comparison iPads

The campaign was so successful that Regis was able to fully fund iPads for their current students long before the close of the campaign. Through those 2,500 appeals, Regis raised more than $51,000. By the close of the campaign, iPads for all future students were also fully funded ensuring that essential education technology would be available to Regis students no matter their financial hurdles and easing one of the many roadblocks students encounter on their way to success.

Our personalized, targeted, direct mail marketing for this campaign helped fuel the school’s fundraising to bring greater technological resources to their community. And since then, all Regis’ undergraduate and graduate students are given a new iPad when entering the school and then take it with them after graduation to keep using as a tool along their journey.

We at BCG Connect are thrilled to have executed this successful campaign with Regis, and so many other campaigns with other educational partners, strengthening their fundraising, and helping their communities in such broad strokes. We truly believe in the investment each of you have in your schools and communities and we look forward to helping strengthen your campaigns in the future.

As we go further into the warm weather, use your past successes to help fuel your creative drive this spring!

Looking for more inspriation? Check out our portfolio for more great ideas and contact us to learn more about how BCG Connect helped Regis strengthened this campaign.

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Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Stand Out From The Crowd(ed Mailbox): 5 Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Add some muscle to your next appeal letter to help it stand out in a crowded mailbox.

During the holiday season, everything that comes into your mailbox, from bills to credit card offers, are adorned in festive colors and glitter. So, it helps to add something special to an appeal letter to ensure that it will stand out from the colorful crowd.

Have your next appeal letter move into the spotlight, no matter the time of year, by including one or more of these strategies:

1. Include Images in the Letter:

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Adding photos to the body of the letter helps to give a face to the story, to the need, and to the reason a donor is giving. Photos also help engage a reader in the letter by helping them make a personal connection to it.

2. Add a Colorful Buck Slip Alongside the Letter:

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This mailing insert, approximately the size of a dollar bill (which is how it gets its name), provides room for additional graphics, images, and appeal information that can help enumerate the impact of a donation.

3. Use Color and Unique Typography in the Body of the Letter:

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By adding color and typographical emphasis, the reader can easily find the most important parts of your appeal letter. This also helps to break apart larger blocks of text to be easier to read and thus keeps their attention longer.

4. Add Artwork or a Tagline to the Outer Envelope:

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The envelope is an important part of the overall appeal package, but is so often overlooked (both during the design process and once it’s in the mailbox). The design of it helps to encourage the donor to open it.

5. Personalize the letter by including:

  • The recipient’s last gift amount: this helps to remind the donor of how much they previously gave and also gives them a point of reference for another gift.
  • A targeted ask amount: by personalizing the appeal letter with a specific ask for each letter, rather than a general ask, this helps to give the donor an understanding of how they can specifically help.
  • The recipient’s class year: by referencing a specific year, you help remind them of their experiences at the school and the reasons for giving back.
  • Add a P.S. line that repeats the call to action: use this important part of the letter to summarize the entire message – the ask, deadline, and call to action – so that when the reader’s eyes go to the bottom of the page, they have all the information.

What techniques have you used? These 5 ideas are just some of the wonderful strategies available. What have you found to be helpful?

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The Current Environment of Annual Giving

The Current Environment of Annual Giving

Recently, the BCG team attended CASE’s Senior Annual Giving Conference, and we want to share some great information we learned on the current fundraising climate, donor retention, acquisition, reactivation, and who to target and when.

5 things you should know:

  • Today, 60% of all schools are making 2 or more asks per year and have success with multiple ask programs.
  • New Donors who give their first gift of $100 or more have a 71% retention rate
  • The longer lapsed the harder to reactivate. Those who are 1-2 years out are the best prospects to reactivate.
  • Parents are great donors and should be the first target for major gift officers.

Download more need-to-know facts from the Senior Annual Giving presentation.

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