The Most Common Analysis

The Most Common Analysis

This year, we have been interviewing (and hiring) new analysts for our growing company. One of the candidates we were talking with recently asked us a great question: What is your most common ad-hoc analysis? Anyone who has worked with nonprofit organizations is likely familiar with this one. And sadly, it’s killing nonprofits: The Stop Acquisition Analysis. A healthy donor database requires a significant investment in acquiring new donors each and every year to replace the inevitable lapsing of current donors. We all have seen the LTV on new donors. An investment in new donors generally breaks even some time in year 2, and then those donors are profitable from year 3 onward. The problem is that nonprofit boards of directors are oftentimes focused solely on the current fiscal year. When budgets are tight (when aren’t they?), the first place they look to cut their budget is new donor acquisition. And thus, begins a descent into nonprofit hell. With your data and our stats tools, we can put together an analysis of what the (bleak) revenue projection looks like when you stop acquisition. The lack of new donors will cause a decline in file size. A decline in file size results in a decline in revenue followed by a decline in the organization’s budget – which of course will lead to a cut in new donor acquisition the next year. And then, the descent into nonprofit hell accelerates. One of my career goals is to see the day when the Stop Acquisition Analysis is not so popular. Until then, if you are fighting for your acquisition budget from a...
Overall Performance Metrics are Rubbish

Overall Performance Metrics are Rubbish

Your ‘healthy overall retention rate’ is a lie and you should feel bad about believing it. Well, probably. Let’s start with this. Take a look at the chart below and tell me if you’d rather be Organization Blue or Organization Orange? The choice is obvious right? Orange is killing it… WRONG! So, so, so wrong. Now let’s look at projected revenue for the same orgs: What the heck. How is this even possible? It’s not only very possible, I see it all the time. In creating the scenario above, I made each performance metric for Org Blue and Org Orange exactly the same. Their retention by lifecycle – all at the same benchmark levels, their gift sizes and frequency – held constant. Everything about the two orgs is identical except for one thing: Orange is acquiring 10% fewer donors each year, while Blue is acquiring 10% more. Why does that impact retention? Since Blue is adequately growing its file, it has a higher proportion of donors each year in transitional segments (second-year/reactivated). These two lifecycles have lower retention rates than long-term loyal donors. Meanwhile, donors in the active file for Orange are  dropping like flies because the only ones it has left who are factored into overall retention rate are the increasingly lonely, but high performing multi-year donors. These remaining loyal donors are propping up the overall metrics on a crashing file. There are two lessons here… If you like your org and don’t want to have to start a new one, keep acquiring new donors. Always. That’s the lesson from this specific scenario. But what I really want...
Postage Going Up

Postage Going Up

On January 27, first class postage is going up to 55 cents, a 5-cent increase. This is the largest increase in almost 30-years. As this article states: “The Postal Service lost $3.9 billion in 2018, attributing the losses to drops in mail volume and the costs of pensions and health care. It marked the 12th year in a row the agency reported a loss despite growth in package shipping.” $3.9 billion. That’s a big number. To put this in context the USPS lost almost a half million dollars every hour, 24-hours a day. That’s just not sustainable. We have been fortunate in this country to have had such a great postal system. It has been fast, accurate and affordable. Nonprofits have been doubly blessed by the US Postal Services’ postal subsidy for nonprofit organizations. But that is changing before our eyes. Delivery of nonprofit mail is getting slower and slower and impossible to predict. Nonprofit mail is now delivered in batches. That means when your appeal does finally get delivered, it’s hitting your donors’ mailbox at the same time as every other nonprofit’s mail. This fall I received 8 appeals on the same day. So now not only are your appeals unpredictably slow on delivery, they are facing greater competition. I can’t help but think that the nonprofit postal subsidies will likely end soon. Here’s what I recommend while there is still time: Analyze the ROI of your donor segments this fall and test first class postage in top performing segments. With access to reliable nonprofit postage, first class postage is an extravagance. However, you are paying a lot...
The Exponential Importance of Second Gift Timing

The Exponential Importance of Second Gift Timing

Check this out! This graph shows the the five-year value of a donor based on how quickly an organization converts a new donor into a second gift donor. The correlation is astounding. New donors that give a second gift within the first 3-months have LTVs nearly twice as high as those who give at the 12-month mark. This demonstrates that it is worthwhile to spend money cultivating a second gift early in your relationship with a new donor. What’s also surprising is the value of donors who convert 13-24 months after their initial gift. This is encouraging. Don’t give up on a new donor than didn’t convert in their first year. However, less surprising, new donors who wait 25+ months to convert have much lower LTV rates. All this indicates the need to have strategies in place encouraging the second gift ASAP for your newest...
Bearing Down

Bearing Down

Many people that work in the numbers business, including us, have been saying for a while now that the stock market is overcooked, and a big correction is inevitable – so the major dive in the Dow Jones yesterday was not a huge surprise. No matter where we end up in the next few days, many finance gurus are still predicting a drop of 30% or more. This article by David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, was reposted by Business Insider on January 11, 2018, explains the trends in an easy to absorb manner: http://www.businessinsider.com/markets-look-stretched-rosenberg-says-2018-1 Of course, Mr. Rosenberg is counseling private investors. At Analytical Ones, we are consulting with nonprofit organizations. And all of us that worked in fundraising through the market collapse of 2008 know that philanthropy is closely tied to market performance. So, what did we learn a decade ago that will help us prepare this time around? This is what you can expect it see: The recession of 2008 had a catastrophic effect on new donor acquisition. It has only been in the last couple of years that organizations have recovered in this area. In times of economic uncertainty, donors are unlikely to add organizations to support. Large donors dried up. Again, in times of economic uncertainty, its tougher for donors to write those big checks. Loyal donors continued to give – and they gave generously. Knowing these things, here’s what we recommend you should be doing now: Even with the drop yesterday, the market is still strong. Now is the time to be investing as much as you can in new donor...
More is Not Always More

More is Not Always More

As we Atlanta Falcons fans know, just because you’re ahead at halftime doesn’t mean that you’re going to win. More is not always more. We all know that Acquisition Strategy is important for donor long-term value and for a non-profit’s long-term income, but HOW important? I recently did some analysis for a non-profit, and the numbers were striking – especially when looking at the donor’s initial gift size and the subsequent LTV. Due to a change in Acquisition Strategy, the new donor average gift jumped 48% from $46 to $68 between FY14 and FY15. And the projected 5-year LTV for the FY15 new donors jumped 49% over the LTV for the FY14 new donors, from $159 to $237. Not surprisingly, with the new acquisition strategy, the client had a decrease in number of new donors. But, with a 10% decrease in number of new donors, there is still a significant increase in revenue over 5 years: 5,000 new donors X $159 LTV = $795,000 4,500 new donors X $237 LTV = $1,066,500 If you factor in cultivation costs at an average of $7/year per donor (and the savings from not mailing the 500 donors NOT acquired) that’s a net increase of $289,000 over 5 years. If you continue this same acquisition strategy for 5 years, that’s a net increase of $1,445,000 for those new donors. So, all told, acquiring more valuable donors to start with makes a big difference down the...