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Our top 4 ways to help you make your direct mail work

Success is in the data

Pareto’s recommendation is to better leverage data analysis and its insights to shift budget resources away from volume-based fundraising into strategies that sustain and grow more generous support from a smaller number of donors.

In the short-term, lower mailing volumes may affect fundraising income (although improve fundraising efficiency).

But direct mail, when used strategically to target mid and high-level donors and potential bequestors, will provide a lifetime giving value that will more than compensate for the short-term financial hit.

The take out: It’s critical to keep your donor database clean, manageable, up to date – and useable.

Have a donor journey program in place

With Pareto Benchmarking showing that second gift rates for new cash donors across all channels is just 17%, improving second gift rates is critical.

Donors need a compelling case and evidence of measurable results after giving in order to want to stay loyal longer and give more generously.

So, if charities make the case for ‘extraordinary need’, provide information on the impact, invite donors to see their work first-hand and where possible, engage in designated or restricted giving, they will deliver the strategies to donors that will, effectively, reduce expense and increase revenue.

The take out: Use direct mail to nurture interest, and keep your donors engaged and delighted.

Do lots and lots of testing

The charities that will continue to make direct mail work will test constantly to determine the strongest and most tangible fundraising propositions. And then use those insights to target the right donor audience.

By testing things like alternative lists, offers, packages, or other techniques, you can make incremental improvements in results over time. And measure the long-term impact of any changes that you make on retention and gift value.

The take-out: Testing is the only way to drive value from one of direct mail’s biggest advantages. You can measure its results.

Remember it’s a multi-channel world out there

We know today that there’s no one silver bullet. It’s not direct mail OR email, it’s not email OR social and it’s not social OR mobile.  Communication with donors is the most effective when you integrate channels.

Your donors are now moving seamlessly between the direct mail and digital worlds. And that’s why you can’t rely only on traditional direct mail fundraising techniques alone – like the traditional RM (response mechanism) in your mail pack.

Donors now expect to be offered a variety of choices for gift transaction every time they consider making a donation. And you need to expect that they will not be consistent from one transaction to the next.

The take-out: With direct mail driving the initial engagement, your donors should have the ability to seamlessly link to all communication channels. Are your messages clear and consistent across all of them?

2018 Pareto Benchmarking – key findings

The Pareto Fundraising 2018 Benchmarking program has charted the changes in donor giving year-to-year over the past 10 years.

It’s designed to help fundraising professionals and their leaders make better-informed decisions.

These are the key findings from the 2018 analysis.

Individual giving continues to grow

2017 saw an overall 4.5% decline in income for the 80-member charities, but when we exclude bequests (which have seen three large and fluctuating years of income) individual giving continues to grow.

60% of large charities’ individual giving income grew over the last two years, 50% of medium and small charities’ income grew.

One in two charities’ cash programs grew over the last two years (regardless of income size). And three in four charities’ regular giving programs grew over the last two years (regardless of income size).

Retained donors are critical to your one-off / single gift programs

Charities retained about 44% of their cash donors from 2016 to 2017. Second gift rates, for new cash donors, continued to decline with the average second gift rate (across channels) just 17% for 2017 recruits. Within this we saw direct mail second gift rates stabilise (as you recruited fewer new donors but a better quality level) and online second gift rates continue to be low (with the higher value of these recruits, and higher volumes of new recruits coming through online addressing this opportunity has seen several organisations deliver greater value from their online activity last year).

Retention has been steadily decreasing and poses one of the greatest risks to future income stability. But not all donors are worth the expenditure to keep so retention, in isolation, does not show us the overall health of one-off giving programs.

Income from one-off donations declined for the second year – down by -2.49% between 2016 and 2017. This decline was driven by reduced acquisition investment, primarily in direct mail, but we saw retained and reactivated cash giving grow overall (the donors you already had grew their giving).

One-off gifts accounted for 15% of total giving last year – 7% coming from gifts of $1,000 or more (high value givers, your middle donors and major donors). This small group of high value givers are critical to income stability and growth.

The average new cash donor was worth $76 in 2017. The average retained cash donor in 2017 was worth $109.

Regular giving growth sustaining

Contributing the largest component of individual giving, regular giving income continued to grow, increasing 4.3% between 2016 and 2017. Regular giving continues to sustain growth in the market with cash giving flat and event income showing a small decline.

Charities retained about 60% of their brand new regular givers donors recruited in 2016.

11% of regular giving income came from donors giving a monthly gift of $83.33 or more (your middle donors and major donors). Again a small group of donors giving substantial income.

The average new regular giver was worth $223 in 2017. The average regular giver in 2017 was worth $347.

Bequests – the variable bedrock

Delivering 18.3% of total individual giving income in 2017, bequest income was down on 2016. This came after two very large years of bequest income – with several charities receiving some exceptionally large windfalls through 2015 and 2016.

Events still a mixed bag

Nowadays ‘Event’ income is primarily that generated by Community Fundraising and Peer-to-Peer events. Just 2.6% of overall income was delivered by events in 2017 and this was a decrease of -2.5% on 2016 income.

Of note: over 90% of this event income was delivered by just 16 of the 80 charities.

What is this ‘Other’ you speak of?

At 28.4% of income it looks like a good type of giving. In fact it’s many types of smaller giving including lottery (not small for a handful of causes but overall a small contributor), membership, merchandise, admin donations, offertories, schools, payroll (very small despite the many times we get asked if it’s growing or showing promise), disaster (which in some cases can be significant, but the 2009 Bush Fires were the biggest blip in this giving), In Memoriam, In Celebration and ‘Other’ (which is things we can’t define and usually this is older data). They add up to a lot but alone are small.

The 2018 Pareto Benchmarking Study includes 250 graphs and tables illustrating the statistical findings from the Analysis and recommendations as to how fundraisers can use this information to build better relationships with their donors and raise more money.

To find out more, please contact Damon Twight at Pareto Fundraising.


This month we’re reading …

A Second Chance: For You, For Me, And For The Rest Of Us

By Catherine Hoke


“What if you were only ever known for the worst things you’ve ever done?”

Catherine Hoke founded not-for-profit Defy Ventures, an organisation that transforms the lives of people in the US prison system.

The story is a fundraising call to action to do something about mass incarceration in the US. They have almost 25% of the world’s prisoners yet only 5% of the world’s population.

Imprisoned men and woman are some of the most marginalised people in our society. But Catherine’s ability to tell their stories and to build empathy and hope for their future is a storytelling triumph.

And that’s why we recommend this book to you. As a fundraiser you are tasked with the role of creating a storytelling culture within your charity – and telling the stories that raise money and awareness.

This book is a very good example of how to do just that.

It’s full of individual stories of Defy’s beneficiaries (current and ex-prisoners). In each story we see the problem, the need, and the change that happens to the beneficiary when the donor gives.

Catherine has a great ability to bring the donor/reader right into the story: “Imagine that you … why would you believe … maybe you can relate … I’m guessing that you too …my hope is that you …”

And she reminds us repetitively of just how her cause is closely connected with her donors’ values … “for everything you have done, don’t you deserve a second chance? Don’t we all?”

A Second Chance then ends with one of the most important ways that a donor can be part of the future of this amazing charity – make a $500 donation to provide a scholarship for a prisoner to undertake the Defy program.

Engaging storytelling!


The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and Wow

By Joseph Michelli


It goes like this …

  • Pay brand-new employees $2,000 to quit.
  • Make customer service the responsibility of the entire company – not just a department.
  • Focus on company culture as the no.1 priority.
  • Apply research from the science of happiness to running a business.
  • Help employees grow-both personally and professionally.
  • Seek to change the world …

… Oh, and make money too.

Sound crazy? It’s all standard operating procedure at Zappos, the online retailer that’s doing over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually, driven primarily by 75% repeat customers and word of mouth. And almost no advertising.

So why is this relevant to fundraisers?

At Zappos, the tagline is “powered by service” and their different way of thinking is powering one of the strongest customer service engines in today’s global marketplace.

The Zappos lessons are applicable not just to the commercial sector, but to not-for-profits too – and to the personal and professional development of people at every level of any organisation.

As they say at Zappos … when you commit to the customer experience, increase employee engagement and create an energetic culture you can’t help but succeed.

The Zappos Experience outlines how they did it. And how they have become a model for other business leaders trying to move toward a culture of customer service.

It may not be the right path for every organisation, but if you’re looking for inspiration as to how to create a much-loved, trustworthy and customer-driven organisation, then this is the book for you.


It’s not always what you should do … sometimes it’s what you can do

As an industry, if we’re going to take retention and loyalty seriously, the way forward is to be innovative and invest in programs that will measure and improve the touchpoints that have the greatest impact on the donor experience.

But, just as we often hear the question … ‘what’s the next big thing?”… one of the next most asked questions is:

“What do I do when there’s no team or budget allocated to fundraising innovation?”

Innovation does not have to be big. Nor does it always have to be expensive if you are to transform your fundraising performance.

Simply, innovation is about removing the obstacles and investing in donor retention the right way.  And it comes in many forms.

It could be making sure that your donors can donate when they want, how they want … or, better leveraging your data to demonstrate the financial benefits of a retention-based strategy … there are always new ways of doing things and new paths to follow.

You don’t have to have an enormous budget or team to deliver a positive supporter experience.

Look for the small, manageable innovations that your charity can manage:

  • Execute the proven fundraising practices better than you have ever done.
  • Get your donor data clean, manageable – and useable. Focus on donor qualification and prioritisation first.
  • Work hard to retain those mid, high and major donors, and your bequestors.
  • Invest more of your existing budget on retention, not acquisition – because your data will show you it can result in higher rates of return.
  • Learn from the professionalism of the commercial sector, where customer service satisfaction rules.

Individually, these things may look small, even insignificant; but when integrated and delivered well, they have the capacity to transform the experience of your supporters.

This month we’re launching …

Touchpoint Dashboard – journey mapping to increase donor loyalty…

Touchpoint Dashboard is the world’s leading journey management toolkit. For the first time, you’ll be able to better manage your donor journey mapping – from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.

Through a system of dashboards controlled from one command centre within your office, you’ll be able to generate reports that show you where your charity is failing to meet donor expectations, how that failure is affecting the bottom line, and what activities are costing you the most in terms of loyalty, retention and lifetime value of your donors.

Armed with that knowledge, you’ll be able to strategically plan, implement and optimise your donor journey to build better lifetime value.

And you can share and collaborate easily and effectively with the different teams in your organisation.

Touchpoint Dashboard is a flexible and powerful donor management platform. It’s easy to set up, its tools and methods are easy to understand so that users can focus on the benefits of journey management and not fall short of their execution goals.

For further information about how Touchpoint Dashboard can transform your levels of donor retention, please contact Clarke Vincent at Pareto on 0415 668 667 or

Stewardship Tracker – see your charity through the eyes of your donor

Charities spend a large amount of time carefully constructing the journey through which they want their donors to go. But how does it feel from a donor’s point of view?

Stewardship Tracker is an internationally recognised mystery shopping platform which helps charities find out how their supporters feel.

It analyses the stages from enquiry through to donation across all channels and then helps charities find out how their communications work in practice over months and even years.

It can also provide benchmarking against other charities at the end of each 12-month cycle.

Stewardship Tracker provides an opportunity to assess your stewardship program from an objective and detailed perspective. It provides information to help you improve on a micro and macro scale.

Over time, you will also be able to track the impact of your changes which may have improved your donor care, retention and supporter satisfaction.

It’s one of the best ways to help you transform your levels of donor satisfaction and retention.

If you would like to discuss our main Stewardship Tracker or our streamlined ‘mini’ version, we’d be delighted to talk to you.

Please call us on 02 8823 5800 or email:

The Stewardship Tracker starts in June and November each year

Excellent customer service means better financial performance

Over the last three decades the commercial sector has spent billions of dollars in understanding how to drive customer attitudes toward greater loyalty and commitment.

They have long known the extent to which customer service satisfaction correlates with higher revenue growth. Happy customers buy more, more often and recommend a company to others.

According to

The commercial world enjoys customer retention rates approaching 90 per cent.

The challenge for fundraisers is that today’s donors are on the receiving end of amazing corporate customer service – and as a result they are more sophisticated than they’ve ever been before about:

  • How they should be treated
  • How often they should be solicited, and
  • How they want to be communicated with going forward.

Consider this …

Research from the Institute of Customer Service shows that customers just don’t benchmark against similar organisations – they will compare the service from your charity against that of their favourite and most trusted commercial brands.

So, for example, if the world leader in customer service – Amazon – can deliver items on the same day, the customer’s expectation rises that every organisation should be able to do the same.

Donors are in the driving seat.

That donors are becoming more sophisticated and demanding about their philanthropy – and the service they receive in exchange for their generosity – is a good thing for our sector.

But it demands that we improve the effectiveness of our supporter relationship management.

To do that doesn’t require an investment of decades of time and billions of dollars.

Our opportunity is to take – at a much smaller cost – the best of what corporates have already researched and learnt – and apply it in a not-for profit way:

  • Donor journey mapping to optimise the donor journey from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.
  • Mystery shopping to measure the delivered donor experience, and
  • Donor satisfaction surveys to feed back on the perceived experience.

It’s a rising bar for us all – whether you work in the commercial or the not-for-profit sector.

The success of donor/customer service satisfaction depends on leadership, employee engagement, effective measurement, innovation and constant program improvement.

In his annual letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urged people to “experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings and double down when you see customer delight”.

It’s a formula that won’t work for everyone – but any business or charity could do a lot worse than follow that formula.

So, what’s the next big thing?

It has been 25+ years since the last game-changer – face-to-face fundraising.

Understandably, we’d all like to find “the next face-to-face” that will dramatically increase our supporter base and provide much needed funds to further our organisation’s cause.

But if the trends and innovations of the past two decades have shown us anything at all, it’s that there is no single, silver bullet to fundraising innovation.

At Pareto, our experience of success and innovation is often to take a different approach.

It’s one that combines what we know – tried and trusted fundraising principles and practice – with the opportunities presented in today’s fundraising environment.

Today it’s about continuing to invest in fundraising – but the innovation comes in the need to overcome the temptation and fixation for the short-term donation ‘sugar’ hit. Instead, the next ‘big thing’ is to:

Focus on the long-term metrics of lifetime value, and invest in donor care and stewardship.

We already know that donors who give a second gift within zero to three months of their first gift, have the highest five-year donation value.

And most major gifts and bequests come at a minimum of five years after the first gift.

That’s why in the contemporary fundraising environment:

The most innovative and lucrative strategy for any charity is donor retention.

Today’s innovative fundraiser knows that they can’t let another year – even another month – pass by without making that critical change.

Our recommendations to you are to:

1.Invest in donor care and stewardship as a strategic financial driver.

2.Use your data to shift your thinking and strategy – and your Board’s understanding – of the impact of donor care and service on income performance.

3.Learn from and adapt the best of commercial customer satisfaction.

4.Move away from immediate and even year one ROI towards a five your ROI and long-term net lifetime value.

5.For your long-term opportunities – major donors and bequests – you must have effective stewardship programs in place.

Of course, always continue to test a range of donor acquisition streams. And when you find one that works, be opportunistic and quickly invest in it. You never know … you might just find the next “F2F”.

But don’t get caught up in the searching and the waiting for its arrival.

Instead, focus on the donor experience as the next big thing … because both commercial and not-for-profit research shows that high levels of donor satisfaction is key to sustainable financial growth.

It’s not how ‘Big’ your data is – it’s what you do with it that counts.

By Brent Collyer, Pareto Fundraising’s new Head of Analytics, Insights and Data.

I’ve come from a strictly ‘for-profit’ background, where I’ve been wrangling data for Big Business and using it to drive change in the pursuit of the bottom line. So it’s been eye-opening, confronting and exciting for me to come to a sector where there’s so much more at stake.

In my first months at Pareto, I’ve had a chance to be on-site at charities where I can see the impact of fundraising, sometimes in the next room. I’ve been struck by how close people in this sector are to the problems they are trying to solve, and I’m seeing why it’s a passion – not just a job – for so many people who work in fundraising.

So, my challenge is to take everything I know about data and analytics from my corporate experience, and help charities turn that into money that solves problems. Here’s my take on how the fundraising sector can use the opportunities presented by ‘Big Data’.

If you build in rigour and integrity, you’ll do better, faster. 

Everyone’s talking about data, and these days almost everyone is collecting a lot of it. That volume is one of the ‘four Vs’ which make up ‘Big Data’. The other three are variety, velocity and veracity.

But, the speed and rate at which it’s collected brings some challenges. I’ve see many businesses struggle with unnecessary and unreliable data, poor quality data and just plain incorrect data. They come unstuck if they make decisions based on that data, or have to spend hours and dollars trying to clean it, migrate it, and untangle the mess it can make.

The opportunity cost of all that cleaning up is the insights they could be getting from the right, clean data.

The takeout: Invest in the fundamentals of hygiene, integrity, and a good structure you can build on. Standardise your data capture at the front-end, have disciplined processes, a well-trained team and regular audits. These things may not be the most immediately exciting part of ‘Big Data’, but they will set you up for success.

 Your ‘Useful Data’ is more important than ‘Big Data’

Once you have access to a lot of data, the temptation is to do everything you possibly can with it. Something that I understand completely.  But trying to analyse every bit of data is just going to spread your resources too thinly. Even if you did have unlimited human resources and budget, you’d burn them on work that would not necessarily return any value.

So one of the most important decisions a data analyst can make is, “What’s the right data to analyse for meaningful insight?”. Often this means making hard calls on what you choose to ignore or put to the side for the moment.

One very good way to make those decisions is by focusing on the metrics, rather than the data itself.  No matter what the size or complexity of your business, there are probably only five or six metrics which really reveal what you need to know. (Other metrics may be interesting – but that doesn’t mean they’re useful).

Metrics let you track, monitor and assess the performance of a particular program or process. And metrics help you identify further opportunities.

The takeout: Don’t try to do everything with your data. Instead, choose the most useful metrics and focus on those.  Over time as your data expands and your understanding of this data evolves so will the range of metrics and the insights they can provide.

Data analytics and predictive modelling can help you make better decisions about your fundraising.

Ten years or so ago, analytics and business intelligence (BI) began to change the way traditional reporting was being used to help businesses understand their environment, investments, customers and efficiency. Analysing data gives you insights you can really use.

Then came the evolution from ‘descriptive analytics’ to ‘predictive analytics’. Once businesses realised the potential of analytics, they started to develop and use predictive modelling.

Simply, predictive modelling is a way to predict the future using data from the past.  Data analysts uncover data patterns and use algorithms to forecast outcomes and create models that predict which actions or audiences have a high likelihood to succeed, and which have a high probability to fail.

Modelling tools can help you make investment decisions: “If we invest this much in one acquisition channel, and this much in another, what are our likely returns in the short term, long term, etc.”? It’s a lot cheaper, faster, and less risky than actually making those investments and watching what happens.

Once we have an understanding of the range of likely forecast scenarios we can then build predictive into prescriptive analytics.  This means providing advise as to what a company or client should do given a prediction.  Prescriptive analytics attempts to quantify the impact of future outcomes and help determine an appropriate range of commercial strategies.

From many years of data analytics and insights, I can see so many applications for advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics in the charity sector. With the power of cloud-based computing and growth in data collection, the sky is the limit for:

  • Donor intelligence – predicting and understanding donor behaviours.
  • Donor profiles – using predictive analytics to develop profiles of the best donors.
  • Qualifying and prioritising leads.
  • Product development and channel integration.
  • Targeting the right donors, at the right time, with the right content.
  • Reducing donor attrition.

The takeout: Predictive and Prescriptive modelling and analytics have superb utility. BUT – read everything above this section, and everything below – to really get the maximum value from them.   

The competitive advantage lies in data agility and enrichment.

Your data is a reflection of the real world, which is a living, breathing, constantly-changing entity.  The increasing velocity of data means that there is an ever-growing need to continually refresh our data and recalibrate our models but given that data is created as part of the human experience we need to continually evolve our understanding of what our data means.

The ever-changing face-to-face market, for example, means that Pareto has a highly skilled and professional team that continuously verify and update the assumptions and algorithms contained in our Regular Giving Forecasting and Life Time Value models.  The increase in the average life span of men and women over the past 12 years of Bequest Modelling has led to a complete redevelopment of that model to keep it as robust and accurate as possible.

As a general rule, the more good data you can feed into your ever-evolving data pool, the more usable insights you’ll get from it. And when I say ‘good data’, I don’t just mean your own data. Data enrichment allows you to get an understanding of what your data and customers look like to another business or industry or even country.  Pareto Fundraising Benchmarking is a case in point, and I’m looking forward to enriching that wonderful cache of information with data and insights from several new sources.

Finally, the most important aspect of enriching data comes from utilising those insights alongside a strong foundation of industry knowledge. As much as I believe in analytics and respect data, understanding the environmental factors that surround it are just as valuable as the data itself.

So, after working in the commercial sector for almost 20 years, specialising in Analytics and Insights,  I’m very much looking forward to tapping into the deep knowledge and experience in the not-for-profit sector – and mixing it up with the data insights that will help us all make more of a difference.


Brent Collyer, Head of Analytics, Insights and Data for Pareto Fundraising.

Brent has over 20 years’ experience across a broad range of domestic and international energy and financial markets.  Developing strategic insights that drive commercial outcomes through the use of data, analytics and technology.

How to love your donors (to death)

Stephen Pidgeon

“It is the fundraiser’s job, your only job, to make the supporter feel good about supporting your charity. You have to love your donors. The money will follow.”

So says author Stephen Pidgeon, a man who needs little introduction to seasoned fundraisers around the world. But, as he also says,

“As I get older and become part of the population segment that is most likely to donate,

I feel more and more abused by charities trying to squeeze the last penny out of me.

It’s madness, because people like me – and there are millions of us – need to be

loved by charities … loved to death.”

That is Stephen’s motivation for writing this book.

This book is for fundraisers with the vision, tenacity and campaigning zeal not just to change the world but to change the way fundraising is done.

In amongst this book’s practical tips, rants, keys and big ideas, this book covers all the basic essentials of fundraising direct marketing and also throws in some sensible insights into the more complex aspects of this endlessly fascinating activity.

The ‘to death’ element of the title of course refers to bequests, the final big gift that more donors could be persuaded to make if only more fundraisers could retain donors support and interest for longer.

As Stephen says:

“Legacies are not the gift of angels, but will increasingly come from donors who are loved and nurtured in their relationship with their favourite charity.”

For the fundraiser who is serious about addressing one of the biggest challenges facing the sector today – retention – buying and reading this book is a great start.

Stop mailing the major donors … they’re different

As a fundraiser you’ve probably heard this more than once. But is it the right thing to do?

Most major gifts are made after about five years of giving. About 88% of major gifts come from existing supporters. So, the majority of major donors spend the first part of their relationship with you as general donors – and a part of your general stewardship program.

They reach the status of a major donor because they have enjoyed and responded to the communications that you have had with them.

So, why shouldn’t they continue to receive the mail and email appeals that other donors get?

Back in 2014, Grizzard Communications Group reported on some surprising test results.

In the test, 500 donors of $500 or more were allowed to limit the number of appeals they would receive in the coming year.

They wrote to all 500 donors and attached a list of the 12 direct mail appeals they were scheduled to receive that coming year. They said they would mail them all 12 of the appeals unless they received specific instructions from the donors.

Of the 500 in the group, 186 wrote back and designated the specific mailings they wanted during the next 12-month mailing cycle. Interestingly, the most mailings anyone selected was three.

At the end of the year, they compared the group that received all 12 mailings versus the group that had self-identified those mailings that were of most interest. The result?

The donors who received all 12 mailings gave 35% more than the ones who selected their particular appeal.

The learning? Unless your donor has specifically asked you to stop mailing or e-mailing them appeals, stick with your direct mail stewardship schedule. And combine it with your major donor cultivation strategy.

Because if your charity is stewarding well, your donors at every level are receiving thoughtful communications from you that move the relationship forward. Great fundraising means you never need to worry about your mail or email.

When you take any segment of donors from your stewardship program, unless you have a substitute communication and ask strategy to replace the direct response communication, there’s a real risk of those donors falling into a black hole of under-communication.

Like any donor, major donors love to give.  Take them out of your stewardship schedule and you deny them the joy of what it means to make an impact with their giving.

Plus, it can have a devastating impact on your organisation’s income.

HOT TIP: Do you have rules around ‘do not mail’ in your charity, we often see whole segments changed at a whim of one person. Setup two flags, ‘DNM-donor request’ and ‘DNM internal’, this simple change empowers your supporters.