Actionable Insights Hidden In Your Acquisition Results


When it comes to acquisition, we all know that metrics matter. However, most nonprofits don’t know which metrics to look at—or what to do with that information once they have it.

At the conclusion of every acquisition campaignyou should do a thorough review of the campaign’s results. This includes taking a comprehensive look at all of the things that went right and, conversely, what you need to improve on before running your next campaign. When done correctly, this review will generate action items for your team.

I understand the desire to move on once a campaign is over. Trust me, I get it. You’re busy. Taking time to read spreadsheets or reports full of data can be time consuming and overwhelming. This is especially true if you aren’t sure which numbers or metrics you should review.

The good news is, if you know where to look, There are actionable insights hidden in your acquisition results.

Looking for actionable insights: Where do you start?

So where do you start? I recommend looking at three key metrics.

Metric 1: Average Donation Amount

The first metric that I look at when reviewing an acquisition campaign is the Average Donation Amount. To determine this metric, take the total revenue your campaign brought in and divide it by the number of gifts your donors made to your campaign.

Compare that number against previous acquisition campaigns. If that number is higher or comparable to your cultivation appeals, this means that your message is likely resonating with your acquisition audience. That’s great news!

If the average donation amount is lower than prior acquisition campaigns or far below your cultivation appealsthen you know that you need to look at and rework your message.

Here are a few things to review or consider when you’re looking to improve your Average Donation Amount:

  • Who is writing your copy? Do you need to hire a different person to write your appeals?
  • Are you including a compelling story of how your organization changes the lives of your beneficiaries? Are you explaining how your audience can help make that change possible by making a donation?
  • Are you using a compelling photo or video to accompany that story?
  • Is your ask or call to action strong? Is it urgent?
  • Does your ask or call to action appeal to both the head (logic and rational thinking) and the heart (emotional pull) of your audience?
  • Have you made it easy for donors to make their gifts?

Bottom line: If you want to improve your Average Donation Amount, focus on the first messaging.

Metric 2: Response Rate

The second metric that I review is the campaign’s Response Rate. To determine this metric, take the number of responders and divide it by the total number of people you reached out to during the campaign.

It’s really important to only do an apples to apples comparison here. What I mean by that is to only compare this Response Rate to the Response Rate of other acquisitions campaign run during the same time period.

Why? In general, Response rates for acquisition campaigns are lower than Response Rates for cultivation appeals. As such, it won’t be helpful to compare those two metrics.

Have you noticed that you’re seeing a declining response rate? This has been the industry trend for the last several years. If your organization is following this trend, let’s look at what you can do to hopefully reverse it.

If the Response Rate is lower than your prior acquisition campaignsthen you should focus on your audience.

Here are a few things to review or consider when trying to improve your Response Rate:

  • Are you targeting known donors to other organizations? Not everyone is a potential donor, so try to focus on reaching donors who have already demonstrated an affinity to give.
  • Consider redefining your audience by scaling back on the number of people you’re reaching out to. Then, once you see an improvement, you can slowly expand to a larger audience.
  • Look at when you’re running your acquisition campaign. Is there a better time to reach out to your donors?
  • Review your subject lines, teasers, and asks. People are busy. They need something to grab their attention and get them to read, watch, or listen to your message. Look at the first thing a potential donor sees from your organization. Is it enough to pique their interest?

Bottom line: Focus on who makes up your audience, when they’re receiving the message, and the very first thing they see or hear from your organization during the campaign.

Metric 3: Net Cost to Acquire

The third metric that I review is the Net Cost to Acquire. To determine this metric, take your Net Revenue and divide it by the number of donors the campaign acquired.

Acquisition is an investment, and as with every investment, you should know your return on investment (ROI). The goal is to have your Net Cost to Acquire be as close to $0 as possible. Because the sooner you break even, the sooner those newly acquired donors offset the time and money you invested to acquire them.

Again, make sure that you are only comparing Net Cost to Acquire for this campaign to the Net Cost to Acquire of previous acquisition campaigns.

While Response Rates and Average Donation Amount will be used primarily for direct mail and email acquisition campaigns, Net Cost to Acquire is a metric that also works well for events and peer-to-peer campaigns.

The three main components of Net Cost to Acquire are:

  • Your Response Rate
  • Your Average Donation Amount
  • The costs associated with running the campaign

If your Net Cost to Acquire is higher than you’d like—and higher than previous campaigns—work on improving your Response Rate and Average Donation Amount using the tips I mentioned above.

It’s also important to examine how much your campaign costs:

  • Can you do what you’re doing for less money without compromising quality?
  • Are your current vendors offering ways to lower costs or make improvements to the revenue and responses? If not, it may be time to find a new vendor.

Bottom line: Improving your acquisition campaign results is really just a matter of looking at your data and acting on what it’s telling you.

If you’re looking for a partner to help you with your next campaign, please reach out. I’d love to help you find the keys to your acquisition program’s success and growth.



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